Photo by Stacey Ballis

Just try and resist

Stacey Ballis
June 18, 2018

I’m a total sucker for poutine. That gloriously messy sticky pile of crispy fries dotted generously with white cheddar cheese curds and doused in a thick slathering of gravy is quite simply a perfect food. The fries are crisp and the curds are creamy and tangy and the gravy is an herby, meaty, savory blanket under which the others cuddle like affectionate otters. I love the first steamy bite, while the fries are still extra crunchy and the curds are only half-melted and the gravy burns the ever-loving crap out of the roof of my mouth. And I love the last lukewarm bites, where the fries have sogged out in the best possible way, and the curds and gravy have become their own unified, delicious goo.

Poutine is as perfect with a cold beer as it is with Champagne. It is the best thing to eat before a night of drinking or the morning after. It is breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. It is amazing when done with elevated ingredients like duck fat fries and marrow or foie enriched veal gravy but still pretty darn great with your basic fast food fries and brown gravy.

But here is what it is not: an at-home food.

Photo by Stacey Ballis

There is just something about great poutine that needs those commercial deep-fat fried potatoes, and a long-simmered gravy. It isn’t that you can’t achieve poutine at home, but you’ll be hard-pressed to make it spectacular. And considering the ingredients, poutine is most certainly what Cookie Monster would call a “sometimes” food. So, if you are going to indulge, leave it to the pros to provide the ultimate poutine experience.

That doesn’t mean you should be entirely bereft of a regular dose of that fantastic flavor combination. That's why I am giving you the gift of poutine aioli, a faux-Canadian condiment of magic and wonder. It packs a hit of beefy delight, that tang of cheddar, all in a quick-to-make sauce that you can dip your fries or tots in for a bit of nostalgia.

Only four ingredients, less than two minutes to make up, and you have a tub of gloriously, intensely flavored sauce that will inspire you to some fascinating food decisions.

By mixing beef bouillon paste, powdered cheddar cheese and some dried thyme into a good-quality mayonnaise, you get all those flavors of poutine. Naturally it is the perfect dip for any type of potato, but it also can do so much more. If you are in the camp that uses mayo instead of butter on your bread for grilled cheese, try a swipe of poutine aioli instead and watch that sandwich sing. A smear on a burger bun amps up both the meat and the cheese.

Because all of the ingredients are fairly inert, especially if you use a jarred mayo to start, you can keep a tub in your fridge for a couple of weeks and see what sorts of interesting things you can get up to.

It's a little bit like a Canadian vacation for your tastebuds. Be forewarned, they may want to emigrate.

Poutine Aioli

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cup good quality jarred mayonnaise (I use Dukes or Hellman’s, but feel free to make homemade if you are in the mood)
1½ teaspoons low-sodium beef bouillon paste (I use Better than Bouillon)
1½ tablespoons white cheddar cheese powder (both Cabot and King Arthur make good ones)
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Directions

Mix the bouillon paste with 1 teaspoon warm water just to loosen it so that it will blend in evenly. Then add it to the mayo along with the thyme and cheddar powder. If your cheddar powder seems clumpy, pass it quickly through a sieve before adding it so that it doesn’t make cheddar nuggets. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you like with ground white pepper. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks if using jarred mayo, 4 days for homemade.

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