Over the next few weeks Foodstuffs is going to look at the range of foods we have here in the Granite State - and it may be a wider range of foods than many of us think.
Among winter comfort foods, Susan Laughlin of New Hampshire Magazine has one choice for the ultimate: poutine. She compiled a guide to poutine in New Hampshire and she joined All Things Considered to talk about it.
What makes a really top-notch poutine stand out? What are the keys?
You have to have good French fries - and sometimes that means it's double-fried, or using the right potatoes or the right methods. And that in itself can be a challenge.
And then there's the squeaky cheese curds - they should be squeaky, which means they should be fresh. Some people say you have to get them from Canada because they make the best ones, but freshness is key. Sourcing them locally is also a good choice, and there are a few places that you can find them locally.
And then the gravy - more than authentic, it needs to be flavorful. A lot of people say, well, we use the dry mix from Canada. And I'm like, really? It turns out the restaurants that make their gravy from scratch, like veal demi-glace, and then they add Medeira or sherry or other things to boost flavor. It may not be authentic but it really tastes good.
When you combine these three ingredients - some cheese curds need to be melted, some need to be unmelted, so you can get that little squeaky thing going with your teeth - it's really quite a sublime moment.
Where can we go looking for that traditional style in this state?
Everybody says Chez Vachon, on Kelley Street in Manchester. They make a pretty good poutine, pretty traditional. But then a place like the New England Taphouse Grille, they make an exceptional gravy.
You actually described it as "a top-notch gravy that glistens."
[With gravy] it shouldn't be too opaque looking; it should be a little clear so you can see the fries in there. They even put a little truffle salt in there. Maybe that's cheating, but it's so heady and so fragrant, and they serve it in a nice little iron skillet. It's a beautiful thing.
You talked with the owner of the New England Taphouse Grille, Dan Lagueux, and he said because of those variations some people have suggested he should go to Quebec and learn to make the authentic dish. But he's originally from Quebec!
Exactly! He's just trying to up the ante. Even Matt Provencher of Martingale Wharf in Portsmouth went to Canada on a full poutine immersion trip with his wife several years ago. They went to about 12 places and none of them were the same. So authenticity is kind of a moving target.
One last note about Chez Vachon, because if you think you can't get enough poutine, they have a challenge for you.
They give you like five pounds of poutine, and you have to eat it in less than an hour, which sounds like a lot of time. But it seems that they've had 30 or so challengers, and only five have managed to finish it. And for all that, they get a free t-shirt. So if you're really hungry, that's the place to go.