Originating in Quebec, poutine was once considered something of a joke, like ambrosia salad, deep fried butter, or loose meat sandwiches. But over the past decade or so, poutine has become so popular that even discerning Canadians are finally admitting their love for this formerly debased dish.
In case you've been living under a rock somewhere in the Mojave Desert, poutine is simply a dish of French fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in a brown (a.k.a. beef) gravy. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? As the dish made its way into our country's culinary scene, you’d find chefs putting their own unique twist on the basics and, personally, that's when I think things really got interesting.
Naturally, in New Orleans, one would expect a chef to take the simple poutine and put it on a po-boy, and that's exactly what they did at French Quarter gastro-pub St. Cecilia. Chef Melissa Jordano has added an extra dimension to the classic French fry po-boy and created a “Poutine Loaf.” Made with house-cut fries smothered in a rich, roast beef debris gravy, it has so many crispy-fried cheese curds that they escape the confines of the Leidenheimer French bread and, like fried shrimp or oysters, tumble out onto the plate with every bite. For $13, this sandwich is a feast! Something you could easily split between two people—that is, if you're willing to share.
Way uptown in the Carrollton neighborhood, there's a place on Oak Street where you can quaff a few glasses of wine and slowly snack on their version of this unique Canadian treat. At Oak Wine Bar, they offer all kinds of tasty bites, but this particular dish stands out almost as much as their incredible hangar steak bruschetta with chimichurri. For $12, you can bask in a ginormous bowl of juicy, braised boar poutine made with their already-famous fries, Pimento cheese, apple chutney, and sauerkraut. The combination of tangy, sweet, and salty doesn't sound like it would work, but believe me, you won't be able to stop eating it once you try.
If you head closer to the bend for breakfast (or even lunch), you can try Chef Jason Goodenough's interpretation at Carrollton Market. Though it may be difficult to skip his oysters or corned beef hash, just take the leap and try the Brunch Poutine, with hand-cut fries topped with a meaty, sausage gravy that's similar to a Bolognese; cheese curds; and two sunny-side-up eggs. Just imagine the heady flavor of the egg yolk oozing into the Bolognese … you might just think you've gone to heaven.
Lastly, though my minimal list barely scratches the surface of poutine in the Crescent City, there's a vendor at St. Roch Market offering a version that is definitely worth talking about. Talented Louisiana born-and-bred chef Micah Martello is killing it with his “original” crawfish poutine that'll only set you back $9.25. This dish is made with crawfish-boiled new potatoes that are fried and then generously smothered with pepper jack cheese and a buttery, creamy crawfish etouffée.