Thursday, March 29, 2012

Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal and Poutine avec McDonalds’ Fries

I have 2 junk foods that I eat –– both involve potatoes –– French fries and chips.

I was driving past a McDonalds and I remembered the French-fry based poutine with foie gras from Au Pied de Cochon that I’d seen in the NYT in 2008…. I thought this combination was obscene… obscenely good –– I had to try it “one day”. That day had come.

The Times said, “These days, you can’t mention food in Montreal without touching on the chef Martin Picard’s unrepentantly Québécois restaurant. P.D.C., as the locals call it, was a pizzeria before Mr. Picard got his meaty mitts on it, and a blazing fire in a wood-burning oven greets guests at the door.”

The NYT continued, “Mr. Picard put his restaurant on the gastronomic map when he put foie gras on poutine back in 2004, just after the restaurant opened. Many dishes at P.D.C. are conceived with that same wicked sense of humor — who puts foie gras on French fries? — and carry an unspoken threat of a cholesterol-triggered overdose.”

“There’s a even a whole section of the menu dedicated to the fatty livers: foie gras on a burger, foie gras on a pizza and, most compellingly, the Plogue à Champlain — a dizzying combination of buckwheat pancakes, bacon, foie gras and maple syrup”

Fur Cup by Meret Oppenheirn, 1936

Poutine au fois gras is like putting fur on a cup –- inspired madness –– surreal.  Gravy, cheese, foie gras sauce… this is a heart attack on a plate… but what a way to go.  You see why I had to make this –– me who, thanks to the wonderful foie gras cubes from D'Artagnan in my freezer ––  can make little foie gras treats any time.

But let’s get back to poutine.  For those of you who are clueless Americans like me, poutine is French Canadian comfort food, pure and simple  –– French fries, curd cheese with a rich meat gravy poured over everything.

Martin Picard is known for his mercurial temperament but he is also known to be a fiery proponent of local, nose to tail cuisine using the best Canadian products. The menu has lots of foie gras dishes including his famous poutine but also duck carpaccio and duck fat fries…  

Yannick Grandmont for The New York Times

and lots of, yes you guessed it, COCHON (Boudin tart, pig’s head, stuffed pigs feet even pigs head for 2).

Evan Sung for The New York Times M Wells, LIC, Queens

At this point, Picard’s acolytes are flying all over the States.  One of them, Hugh Dufour, came to my attention when he opened M.Wells, a quirky and crazy popular place that began with erratic hours and did only breakfast and then lunch (I read that lack of liquor license was the hitch on the dinners) and chose a location in an off-kilter corner of Long Island City Queens, NY housed in an old metal diner.  As soon as the drooling reviews started pouring in, they closed, adding to the allure (word is there is a steak place in the works).

Ah yes, back to Picard’s creation –– The Calgary Herald said “One of Montreal's famous brasserie (French for "small eating place") restaurants, Au Pied de Cochon, has also created a following with their own unique poutine recipe. Chef Martin Picard takes this "low food" to loftier heights, infusing pork stock, egg and foie gras.”

I found the recipe for Picard’s foie gras poutine sauce in The Calgary Herald but I still had to find a recipe for the base poutine sauce or “gravy” that was an ingredient in the mix. I looked at quite a few and ended up combining a bunch of ideas to get a flavor I liked –– it is thickened gravy after all (those of you in Canada can buy it in a jar, but I wouldn’t recommend that for this recipe).

The other thing that gave me pause was the cheese.  Canadians use something called cheese curds that aren’t available in my area (or if they are I didn’t find them). I heard they squeak so I used mozzarella and then, because I had this amazing cottage cheese, I let the cottage cheese drain and used it as a base for the mozzarella then popped them both in the microwave to melt them a little… it was delicious and creamy. You can just use the mozzarella if you would like or cheese curds if you can find them.  Of course, I stopped by McDonalds and got my fries. 

Honestly, this is crazy rich… I was seriously stuffed less than half-way through my serving using about ¾ box of fries.  Still,  it is an inspired way to use foie gras in a dish with a delicious sense of humor.

Pied a Cochon Foie Gras Poutine for 2-4

Foie Gras Sauce
2 1/2 oz foie gras ( I use wonderful cubes from D'Artagnan)
2 egg yolks
2/3 c plus 2 T poutine sauce
2 T cream

foie gras for  searing ( I used a few cubes for each plate)
5 oz mozzarella, cut in 2-3 slices and then into wedges or cheese curds
1 c cottage cheese, drained for a few hours (optional)
1-2 large packages McDonald’s French fries (you may want to warm them in a 350º oven on a sheet pan for 5 or 10 minutes –– better still have someone fly them in, piping hot from the restaurant)
¼ c poutine sauce  (gravy) for spooning on top (optional)
chopped parsley

Bring the poutine sauce to a boil and then keep warm.  Mix the egg yolk, foie gras and cream in a food processor and blend.   Pour the hot poutine sauce into the mix and pulse a few times. You can strain it at this point if you would like as you add it back into the saucepan.  Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, till it reaches a temperature of 175º and remove from heat.  Continue stirring for 30 seconds more and keep warm.

Heat a cast iron skillet till hot. Place a few pieces of foie gras in the pan and sear on both sides. 

Place cheese on one large plate or individual plates.  Put the cheese(s) on a plate(s) and place in a microwave and warm for 30 seconds or until slightly melted.

Sprinkle fries on top of the cheese, pour foie gras poutine sauce over the fries.  Pour a little reserved poutine sauce over that if you would like and sprinkle with parsley.

Poutine Sauce

2 T butter of duck fat
1 shallot, chopped
½ t dry thyme
¼ c red wine
1 T cognac or armagnac
2 T flour

1 C chicken stock, warm
2 T demi glace
1 t Worcestershire
s & p

Saute the shallot in butter or duck fat. Add the thyme, wine and brandy and reduce a little.  Stir in the flour and slowly add the stock and demi glace  and stir till thickened.
Add the Worcestershire and strain.  Salt and pepper to taste.



Laura@Silkroadgourmet said...

Hi Deana:

Your poutine looks and probably tastes much more elegant than the real deal in Montreal. I love the gravy recipe it seems delicious!

FYI: Curds can be made at home with cheesecloth or a clean towel, whole milk and lemon juice or rennet (if you keep Kosher or Halal don't use rennet). Warm the milk, add the lemonjuice wait until it curdles - stiring a bit. When you have pot of solids with extra liquid, place in cheesecloth and drain. Drain and compress by twisting around a kitchen faucet and when it holds together - its curds.

IMHO you chose well with the Mozz and cottage cheese.

Mostly, I've experienced the cheese unmelted - but melted is wonderful variation!

I'm also a fan of Picard.

Great post!


Victoria said...

I gotta say, McDonalds fries never looked so good! I've wanted to try poutine so many times when I've been in Canada and yet it's alluded me. This 5 star version is pretty awesome. Great inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

Evelyne CulturEatz said...

Hey its my city, too cool! And I have eaten there, as well as at his sugar shack: 14 different dishes are served, insane.

Although you can fin cheese curd in Canada, the squeaky cheese kind is only in Quebec.

Great gourmet junk food creation!

Marjie said...

It's always fun when a great chef has a sense of humor. I love McD's fries anyway, and the sauce sounds amazing.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! With Foie Gras and McDonalds' fries - it's just a perfect junk food makeover, that's for sure :) Loving the Poutine Sauce, excellent!

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

Those are the most elegant frites I've ever seen! They must taste so good and how decadent :)

Lazaro Cooks said...

Awesome post. I am big fan of that crazy bastard. He loves pork even more than I do. Which is hard to find.

Can I please have an order of your fries? Pretty please?!

Bravo, my friend.

psychitome said...

Have you ever thought of assembling these blog posts into a book? I for one would purchase it!


angela@spinachtiger said...

My idea of McDonald's fries will never be the same again. Very worthy 5 star post.

Faith said...

Talk about inspired -- your dish takes the cake, my dear! It is lovely. I'll never pass by a McDonald's again without wishing they served their fries like this, lol!

Priscilla said...

Always inspired! No dish that features foie gras can be considered junk and this is the best looking poutine I've ever seen! Still not over that fur cup,either. One day I'll make it to Au Pied de Cochon - there's one in Paris that I dined at years ago.

Anonymous said...

Super, but why is McDonalds involved?? duck fat fries or any homemade kind would be sooooo much better... But I guess, keeping with Picard's philosophy, in the USA McDonald's is considered "local" food....!

FOODalogue said...

ooh, decadent ... foie gras, poutine and fries! Nice job!

Sarah said...

I don't know what it is about McDonald's fries but I love 'em. But then I love duck fries, too! There was a time that you could only find poutine in Quebec but specialty places are opening up across the country to serve this decadent junk food. The chef is actually in Calgary this week promoting his new cookbook! Well done!

Peggy said...

Oh goodness this looks rich and delicious! I love that you even used McDonald's fries =)

Unknown said...

Somehow that Big Mac with the packet of fries looks mismatched now that I've seen your more desirable pairing of the fries with foie gras! What an inspired post, I love it!

Cathleen said...

There is no way.. This looks too good. If I made this, I would eat it breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everyday.
..I'll try it out. Hope I won't get too carried away :p

Magic of Spice said...

I love poutine, well a vegetarian version anyway :) This is just fantastic! And your sauce looks silk!
Amazing job with the challenge!

Table Talk said...

I think I gained 10 pounds just looking at the photos! What an incredible sauce, and topped with foie gras---definitely better than ketchup!

Barbara said...

Absolutely brilliant, Deana!
Poutine is new to me so I read this post with great interest. I'd heard about Picard, which added to the fun read. My kind of chef...crazed and talented. :)
You did a magnificent job with your junk food makeover. I rarely eat McDonald's fries, but would have loved to help you finish your portion!

Tanantha said...

Oh Deana, poutine!!! I gotta get it everytime when I visit Canada. Somehow I feel like locals eating those fried hahaha. Not to mention poutine fries are awesome; you top it with foie gras!

Lori Lynn said...

Crise de foie, be still my (still) beating heart. Deana, you slay me!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

We tried this dish at Au Pied De Cochon and it was beautiful but as you say, very rich! I must be a Canadian at heart because poutine is the perfect comfort food in Winter for me! :D

Anonymous said...

Foie gras is a "delicacy" that requires the indelicate force-feeding of geese and ducks to bloat their livers. Birds often have bloody throats, barely able to walk and struggling to breathe. :(