Poutine with Mole

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Belly bomb alert! Poutine, which comes from Quebec, is a pile of French fries and cheese curds smothered with with gravy, barbecue sauce, or other concoctions such as bolognese sauce. I've wanted to try it with mole for a long time and finally made it this way on the long weekend when my sister came to visit. I used a mole verde mix for the sauce, prepared quite thick with chicken stock. The mix was Doña Maria brand and very salty; Rogelio is better if you can find it.

Cooking fries in animal fat, like beef fat or duck fat, gives them the best flavour. I got a couple kilos of beef fat free from Sunterra market, just by calling ahead, and rendered it in the slow cooker. I should have followed a more elaborate rendering process because the resulting lard was full of suc - yummy, but complicated the frying. (Do we have a word in English for suc? The sticky, aromatic brown stuff that clings to your pan surfaces?) I mandolined starchy baking potatoes into skinny fries and soaked them in cold water, then heated the lard over medium high heat and began parcooking the fries.

French fries should be cooked once at a lower heat to cook them through and then again at high heat to crisp them. If you have a deep fat fryer, the low temperature should be about 300 deg F and the high temperature about 375. I was using a stove top, so for me the low temperature made the fries look like they were relaxing in a jacuzzi and the high temperature immersed them completely in bubbling oil. I thought that with my skinny cut fries double cooking would not make much difference and tried to cook one batch in hotter fat all at once, but they turned out limp. The double cooked fries, salted, were wondrous. We ate them as poutine, then with ketchup and other dips.

As for the poutine, the final combination was very good but still could use some tweaks. The thin, crispy fries did not hold enough heat to melt the cheese (used chevre) into submission and the sauce was a bit too thick, so the glommed-together quality of true poutine did not get a chance to develop. Next time will try thicker cut fries, and maybe a different kind of mole, like chocolate or pumpkin seed. The cheese element definitely needs more attention as well - think queso fresco would work really well with the mole, or maybe a sharp feta if I can find one that is melty enough.