Today, we're making Chesapeake Poutine!
Let's talk about poutine for a minute. Poutine is a Canadian dish made of french fries that are topped with a brown gravy and cheese curds. The gravy is oftentimes made of a mix of chicken and beef stock and is made as a thinner, lighter gravy. Cheese curds, also known as squeaky cheese, are little pieces of curdled milk that look like little oval bites of cheese. Cheese curds are pretty readily available in grocery stores in the US nowadays. So the little cheese curds and hot gravy are placed on top of hot fries right before serving, and the heat from the gravy and fries melt the cheese just enough to make them nice and gooey. YUM, right?
Today's recipe is my Maryland style spin on this classic dish. We have hand cut, air fried, russet potato french fries. We have white cheddar cheese curds. And, we have a creamy, crabby gravy that coats the whole situation.
Are you drooling yet?
Let's talk about those french fries. We're going to cut the potatoes into french fries by hand, and it's so much easier than you think! One potato at a time, we're going to lay the potato on it's side, slice the potato into ¼ inch thick slices, then lay those slices flat, and cut them into ¼ inch thick stick. Super simple! And, we don't even need to peel the potatoes first. We're going to keep the skin on for extra flavor and crispy texture.
In order to get that perfect fry that's crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, we need to try to wash out some of that starch that russets are infamous for. So as soon as we finishing slicing each potato, we're going to put our fries into a big bowl of cold water. The fries are going to soak in the water for about a half hour, then we'll drain the water, give the fries another rinse, drain them again, and put them on some towels to dry. We need to get them as dry as we possibly can so they “fry” in the air fryer instead of steam.
The next step is to toss our fries with some oil, salt, and pepper. I used the air fryer function in my Ninja Foodi Grill to cook my fries, and I think the texture was absolutely perfect. You'll have to work in batches, because we don't want to crowd our fries in the air fryer. But it only takes about 15 mins per batch for these fries to be perfect. If you don't have an air fryer, you can absolutely roast these fries in the oven. It will take a little longer, and the texture will be slightly different, but for all intents and purposes, the fries will still be just as yummy in our poutine if you bake them.
While the fries are going, we can work on our crabby gravy. The gravy starts with a traditional roux made of butter and flour. Then, we add seafood stock and a little Old Bay as the base of our gravy. Once the stock starts to thicken, we'll add a little heavy cream, some delicious lump crab meat, and a splash of sherry wine. Sherry wine is one of those locally known secret ingredients in cream of crab soup, and it makes all of the difference. This gravy is so rich and delicious, I could pretty much just shovel it straight from the pot to my mouth. Forget the fries and cheese!
No, wait. I didn't mean that!
Once we have our fries and gravy finished, it's time to assemble. Lay your fries on your serving platter. Pour that incredible gravy all over those crispy fries. And top the whole thing with your cheese curds. Now since this dish is kind of one note and brown when it comes to color, we're going to add a little sprinkling of fresh chives right on top to add a little brightness, freshness, and pizazz.
When it's time to take a bite, get ready for an eyes rolling in the back of your head kind of experience. The fries are savory and crispy. The gravy is creamy and bursting with coastal seafood flavor. And, the cheese curds turn into little blobs of gooey goodness. This dish is so warm and comforting and perfect for beating those cool weather blues.
I ran this recipe by a native Canadian, and I got two thumbs up. So, that's the best seal of the approval this fusion dish could ever really need.
I can't wait to hear what you guys think of it! Enjoy, and let's eat!
For the French Fries
- 2 ½ lbs russet potatoes, skin on and washed
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
For the Crab Gravy
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 ½ cups seafood stock
- 1 ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 1 ½ tsp sherry wine or sherry cooking wine
- 12 oz lump crab meat
- 12 oz white cheddar cheese curds
- Old Bay seasoning and minced chives, for garnish
- Make the French Fries: Slice potatoes lengthwise into ¼ inch thick slices. Then lay the slices flat, and cut ¼ inch sticks to make a french fry shape. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl of cold water, and allow to soak for 30 mins.
- After potatoes have soaked, drain the water, rinse and drain the potatoes again, then transfer potatoes to a clean kitchen towel. Use paper towels to thoroughly dry the potatoes as best as you can. Wash out the soaking bowl, and dry it well. Add potatoes back to the bowl along with canola oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the potatoes to evenly coat in oil and spices.
- Preheat the air fryer to 390 degrees. Arrange potatoes in a single layer (all fries will not fit at once), and air fry for 15-17 minutes, tossing the fries once half way through cooking. Repeat with additional batches until all potatoes have been cooked. Alternately, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread fries out in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 40-45 mins tossing the fries once half way through cooking. Transfer fries to a serving platter.
- Meanwhile, make the Crab Gravy: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook for 1 min. Slowly whisk in seafood stock until it is completely incorporated with the roux. Add Old Bay. Bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring occasionally. Add heavy cream, and simmer 2 more minutes. Stir in sherry wine, then stir in the crab meat, and cook 1-2 minutes more. Taste for seasoning, and add a little pinch of salt, if desired.
- Assemble the Poutine: Pour Crab Gravy over the french fries on the serving platter. Top with cheese curds. Garnish with a light sprinkle of Old Bay and minced chives, if desired. Serve!
- I 1000% prefer making the french fries in the air fryer as opposed to roasting them in the oven. The air fryer is faster, and I like the texture a lot better. I recommend air frying over baking if you have the option. You could also cheat and used store bought french fries, but you just can't beat the taste of a skin on russet fry. I used the air crisp feature on my Ninja Foodi Grill, and I was able to knock out the fries in 2 batches.
- The trick to this recipe is timing. We want to try to finish the fries and the gravy at the same time so that the heat from both will naturally melt the cheese curds. If it doesn't work out that way, you can pop the assembled poutine in a 400 degree oven for about 2-3 mins to help reheat everything and start the process of the curds breaking down.
- Take it easy when you're thinking about salting the gravy. Our fries are salty. The Old Bay is salty. And if you use cooking wine, there's a little salt in there too. Taste it and make the decision based on what you like, but if you decide to add any salt to the sauce at the end, you truly won't need more than a tiny pinch.