The conclusion and culmination of one week writing about Aroostook, the careful and colorful summary of a mere one night spent in Aroostook, is this: Poutine Potato Skins. The potato is my least favorite tuber, not high on my list of fun foods to consume. As a living human American in the late 1980’s, I did order and enjoy the potato skin appetizer on more than one occasion, and may have even bought a bag of Keebler (Elves) Tato Skins once, at a Cumberland Farms, on my way to CCD (Catechism Class). I wanted to pay tribute to the humble potato in a way that felt right to me. I walked a road of excess and Canadianism to unearth this marvel of man’s ingenuity to man. This was my very own idea and creation and if it bears any resemblance to an already-devised and copyrighted recipe, you have my sincere apologies.
Obviously, I am not the artificer of poutine, that greasy spoon special of French-Canadian origin in which french fries are heaped with cheese curd and gravy. In fact, I’ve never even had the real thing. During my intense research process – in which I consulted such primary sources as Wikipedia – I encountered one perhaps apocryphal tale of the invention of poutine dated to 1957 by one Fernand Lachance, who, upon completion of his great mound of poutine exclaimed ça va faire une maudite poutine (“it will make a damn mess”). Other etymological explanations link “poutine” to “pudding,” or quite possibly, it’s Provencal dialect for “bad stew.”
Any way you slice it (please don’t slice it) what we’ve done here tonight is delicious. And simple. I found a container of “Yancey’s Fancy Cheddar Cheese Curds” at Hannaford, and made a quick beef gravy (and yes, I did see that a veal or other white meat gravy is more authentic). I baked two potatoes at 400 for an hour, halved them, and scooped out the potato interior. The rest is as follows.
Poutine Potato Skins
- 2 large potatoes
- a heaping handful of cheese curds
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2.5 cups of beef broth
- salt and pepper
- grape seed oil
To make the gravy, I combined flour and butter over medium heat for 15 minutes, until it became a nutty, deep brown roux. Then I slowly whisked in the broth, brought it to a boil and reduced the heat to medium-low, until the liquid thickened to the proper consistency. The scooped-out potato halves are rubbed with grapeseed oil and put back in the oven, in a baking dish, at 450 for ten minutes per side, until crisp. Then I returned some potato mash to the potato boat, topped generously with curds and broiled for three or four minutes. Finally, I poured warm gravy over the whole damn mess and voila, it is finished! Vive la pomme de terre!