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)
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.
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.