This post was originally penciled in for late February, but apparently it’s La Poutine Week right now so it seemed fitting to jump on the bandwagon!
Today also happens to be my 29th birthday (yikes!!), and there’s no way I’m entering my last year as a 20-something without excessive amounts of cheese. Healthy food blog be-damned!
You might be wondering how poutine could make it onto a healthy cooking blog. The combination of French fries, rich beef gravy and copious amounts of melted cheese doesn’t exactly scream health food.
While I fully admit this recipe comes dangerously close to guilty pleasure territory, it is most definitely a better choice than the classic takeout version us Canadians know and love. But yeah, there’s definitely a lot of cheese going on here! Like I said, it’s my b-day :)
A staple in Canada but relatively unknown elsewhere–other than perhaps the northeastern U.S., or so I’ve read–poutine is as big a part of Canadian culture as maple syrup and Tim Horton’s.
In my Northern Ontario hometown, for example, the most famous food establishment isn’t a chef-run restaurant or a farm-to-table bistro serving vegan artisan sandwiches (in fact, places like that don’t really exist in Timmins). Instead, it’s a scruffy takeout joint/convenience store called Chez Nous that specializes in one thing: poutine.
It’s not like we eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner or anything, but a life completely devoid of poutine (even for a reason so admirable and important as one’s health!) would be a very sad existence for us Canucks. It would be like telling someone from New England that they couldn’t have a lobster roll ever again because it’s just not the greatest for you.
That’s why I took a leap and concocted this homemade poutine recipe made with baked root vegetables (rainbow-hued carrots and parsnips, to be exact) instead of deep-fried french fries. They’re not as energy-dense as potatoes, and I baked them with just a bit of canola oil spray, so the swap cuts calories substantially without changing the dish too much. I kept the cheese curds and gravy, though, because frankly poutine isn’t poutine without them.
I wasn’t sure how carrots and parsnips would taste in poutine, but happily they ended up being quite good. Their distinctive flavour was mellowed by the roasting process and the blanket of rich, salty gravy.
- 2 lb hardy root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
- Canola oil spray
- 1 package powdered gravy mix (or homemade brown gravy)
- 1 cup cheese curds
- Black pepper, to taste
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
- Pre-heat oven to 375F. Arrange the root vegetables in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, coat evenly with oil spray. Bake, turning halfway through cooking, until golden brown on the outside and fork-tender on the inside, about 45 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the gravy according to package directions and keep warm. Transfer the root vegetable fries to an oven-safe baking dish or skillet, sprinkle with the cheese curds and pour the hot gravy on top. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese just has begun to melt, about 2 minutes. Top with black pepper and green onions, if using, and serve immediately.
- I used a mixture of yellow, orange and purple carrots as well as parsnips, but you can use any mixture of hardy root vegetables you wish.