Poutine has its origins in the humble, blue collar regions of Québec. Over the years, the now classic combination of fries, spiced chicken gravy and fresh cheese curds have traversed North America. And on its travels, it has has dozens of permutations. A different sauce. A different cheese. A different root vegetable for the fries.
I’ve done my fair share of variations of this classic dish, but revamping every component is a new exploration for me. My thought processes started with the mushroom. I’ve been eating a cheese produced in Western Canada a lot lately from Bothwell Cheese. Their Smoked Chanterelle Mushroom Aged Cheddar is bright, slightly tart, mildly smoky and deeply earthy not only from the mushrooms, but from the aging process of the cheese itself. I thought a mushroom sauce would be a perfect accompaniment.
I wanted to have something besides a French fry for the foundation. One of my favourite “fry alternatives” is doing a baked, breaded eggplant fry. Simply cut an eggplant into chunky English-style chips, dredge them in prepared mustard then into spiced breadcrumbs and bake until crispy. They’re tasty on their own, but they make a great base for a poutine as well.
Three basic steps, going for an exploration, like the dish itself has done. Enjoy!!
Mushroom Eggplant Poutine:
For the Roasted Mushroom Gravy:
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
100g/4 oz quartered fresh white mushrooms
1/4 cup cold pressed camelina oil (or your favourite cold pressed/extra virgin oil)
3/4 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery seeds
3-4 Tbsp water, as needed
For the Eggplant Fries:
450g/1 lb eggplant, cut into 2cm/1″ x 5cm/2″ strips
3/4 cup prepared mustard (I use homemade but your favourite mustard is fine)
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp creole/cajun seasoning (or your favourite seasoning. Curry powder is a nice variation)
Prepared Roasted Mushroom Gravy
Prepared Eggplant Fries
100g/4 oz Smoked Chanterelle Aged Cheddar, or any good aged cheddar, crumbled
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
In a medium roasting pan, scatter the onions, celery and mushrooms evenly. Drizzle with oil and toss with your fingers to evenly coat. Roast on the lower rack of the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven, add 3/4 cup water, bay leaf and thyme. Return to the oven on the lower rack and roast for another 30 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf, transfer the remaining contents of the roasting pan, including the juices, to a blender and purée until smooth. Season with salt and celery seeds. Add more water if necessary to get to a thick “gravy-like” consistency. Set aside and keep warm.
For the Eggplant Fries, place the mustard in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs and seasoning in another small bowl. Dredge the eggplant strips in the mustard, letting excess drip off, then dredge in the seasoned breadcrumbs. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. When all of the eggplant has been breaded, place in the same preheated oven as the mushrooms and bake for 12-15 minutes. Turn the eggplant fries with tongs and bake for a further 12-15 minutes until the breading is deeply golden on all sides and the eggplant is soft inside.
To serve for a dressier plating, lay out 5-7 Eggplant Fries on a plate next to each other. Drizzle an even line of Roasted Mushroom Gravy over the centre of the fries and evenly add crumbled cheese over the gravy. For a more rustic, traditional plating, place a few fries on the bottom of a bowl, drizzle gravy over them, crumble some cheese over the gravy. Repeat layers of fries, gravy, cheese until the poutine is heaped and delightfully rustic. Serves 2-3…..or one….urp 😉