Poutine is a traditional dish that originated in Quebec, Canada, made of French fries, cheese curds and gravy, resembling the American dish Disco Fries. The flavor and texture combination is rich, with a heavy calorie load to match. A few alterations in the main ingredients can improve poutine's nutrition profile without compromising its decadence.
Poutine uses a mound of French fries as its base. Instead of deep frying, baking the potatoes can make them crispy. Cut them into thin wedges, as you would for French fries, and toss them in olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and a bit of salt. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet and cook them in a 400-degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. For a fresh flavor and burst of color, sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Cheese curds created during cheddar making are the cheese choice for poutine and are widely available in Canada. If you are savvy in the kitchen, you could make them from scratch using low-fat milk. A creative substitute is low-fat cottage cheese, drained of excess liquid; however the texture will not be as close to the original dish. You could also use chunks of part-skim mozzerella, a good melting cheese.
Smothering the French fries with beef gravy brings another dimension of flavor to poutine, though you could use chicken or vegetable gravy for a lighter touch. Use homemade stock or, if you're in a pinch for time, use low-sodium canned broth. Enhance the store-bought product with any fresh vegetables you have on hand, peppercorns or garlic. Reduce the stock or broth in a pan on the stovetop to concentrate the flavors. Thicken with cornstarch instead of flour and butter, to create a silky mouthfeel without the extra calories.
One of the most appealing aspects of poutine is that it acts as a blank canvas, ready to be altered with a variety of ingredients. A common topping is smoked beef brisket, which brings down the dish's health potential by increasing its saturated fat and calorie content. Instead, sprinkle the top of the poutine with a bit of turkey jerky. This addition will lend a smoky flavor and a chewy texture that works well with the other layers of the poutine.
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