Cheese curds. I was re-introduced to these versatile little nibbles on my trip to Upstate New York with the #NYSDairyTour2014 through the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council (read more about that fab trip here). Returning home, I was determined to give this Quebec classic a try. After searching high and low, my fiancé finally found cheese curds at the Essex Street Market in New York! 1,000 points for him because they are a must for poutine.
This, my Jersey natives, is the grandfather of “disco fries”. It generally involves fries (or pomme frites), cheese curds, and brown gravy. I decided to make Sweet Potato Poutine with Mushrooms, Spinach and Shallot Port Gravy. Sounds fancy. It’s easy. Observe and improvise as you will.
3 sweet potatoes, cut into the shape of fries
1/2 pound cheese curds
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons white flour
16 oz beef broth
2 splashes port wine
1 shallot, chopped fine
2 handfuls fresh “baby bella” or white mushrooms
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
1 tablespoon French herbs or herbs de Provence
salt and pepper, to taste
First, admire your cheese curds. Try one! They’re a little tangier than fresh or packaged mozzarella but melt even better.
Next, place sliced sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet. Toss them in salt, pepper, and 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Don’t douse them in oil or they won’t be crispy! Bake them at 350 for about a half hour. Or until they’re nice and browned.
While this is happening, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a small pot. Add the shallot and sauté until it becomes translucent. Add 2 tablespoons of flour, whisking constantly, until it becomes a paste. Then, add a couple of splashes of port followed by beef broth…slowly…whisking the entire time. Salt and pepper to taste. I had to adjust the ratio of liquids to flour a bit to get it to the right gravy consistency. Just keep playing with it!
Once your gravy is done, quickly sauté the mushrooms and spinach in 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan with herbs de Provence. Now you are ready to build your poutine!
We were absurdly hungry by the time we started building our dishes into massive mountains of fries and cheese. We ate all of the above ingredients in one sitting. Just remember…this stuff is FILLING. Start with a layer of fries.
Then…an overly generous handful of cheese curds.
Next, the vegetables while they’re hot so that the curds melt.
Finally, cover all of it in your rich gravy.
This will go down as one of the most decadent dinners in my history. Well worth it and perfect for winter. See how the curds melt in a heavenly fashion and are even better than string cheese? A genius and SO underrated member of the dairy family.