|Fig.1. Risotto Poutine-c'est bon en tabarnack!|
If we look at the basic building blocks of a poutine as consisting of a sound starch, cheese and sauce, then there’s no reason why rice can’t be a suitable substitute for potato. This abomination of a Quebec staple—which came to me one night whilst I soaked in a bubble bath—is surprisingly good. It’s also much easier to make than most conventional risottos, given that it only contains four ingredients.
Risotto is all about technique, and this risotto is no exception. The secret behind a smooth, creamy risotto resides in constant motion: stirring the rice frequently while it cooks releases the velvety starch imbued within each and every grain, but, did you know that in Italy, the stirring doesn’t always end when the risotto is cooked?
There is a cooking technique particular to risotto in Italy known as La Mantecatura. A Mantecatura involves adding butter (or olive oil, or any fat for that matter) to your risotto after it has finished cooking and stirring it in vigorously, the aim of which is to release more starch (amylopectin) from the grain of rice. If you preform a Mantecatura, use a smooth rubber spatula as I outlined in my last post. While a wooden spoon is the kitchen tool of choice when it comes to stirring, its rough surface and latent jagged exterior could damage the rice. Some Italian chefs execute La Mantecatura solely by flicking the pan with their wrists, a technique that sends a thin stream of risotto piercing through the air only to splash back down into a bath of velvety risotto, a technique that requires much practice.
|Fig.2. Ingredients at the ready.|
The only questionable aspect about this risotto was the poutine sauce: too much of a good thing can have an adverse affect; such was the case with the poutine sauce in this recipe. I made the first batch of risotto by using poutine sauce as my liquid from beginning to end; the result, like my mother, when used too much, it became overbearing. For the second batch, I started with chicken stock, when the rice reached the half-cooked stage, I started adding poutine sauce, the result, as we say in the land of the poutine, modit qu'c'est bon! This poutine pairs very well with a Pepsi and a May West.
4 cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups Carnaroli rice
2 cans St Hubert Poutine sauce, about 3 cups (feel free to use any poutine sauce you’d like. Next time I make this recipe, I plan on using a sauce from one of my favorite poutine dives such as Chez Ma Tante, La Patate Anjou, La Banquese, Burger Bar, Blackstrap bbq, KFC, etc.)
2 cups fresh cheese curds.
|Fig.3. Stirring in the 'squeaky cheese'.|
In one medium pot, bring the chicken stock to a simmer, in another medium size pot, bring the poutine sauce to a simmer.
Set a non-stick pan over medium heat, add the rice and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes while stirring. (this toasts the grains of rice, which imparts a nutty end flavor to your risotto.) Add two ladles of chicken stock and stir until liquid is almost all absorbed, repeat with another two ladleful’s of chicken stock. At this point, taste the risotto. If the rice is still hard, add another two ladles of stock, if the rice is firm (soft on the outside and hard on the inside) when bitten then you can start adding the poutine sauce. Add some poutine sauce and stir until most of the sauce is absorbed (take care in making sure the rice does not stick, which it is prone to do, especially when the liquid begins to be absorbed.) Repeat until the rice is al dente. When the rice is cooked, add the cheese and stir it in until it melts. Add a bit more sauce if desired. Serve immediately. Estie c’est bon!
A note on cheese curds:
If you live in Quebec, Vermont, New York, or Wisconsin, you are probably familiar with cheese curds (sometimes called squeaky cheese in Canada. The cheese squeaks against the teeth because of air trapped in the cheese. If the cheese isn’t fresh, it won’t squeak because the air trapped in the curds escapes, usually within 24 hours.) Cheese curds are a very fresh, mild cheddar. When making Cheddar, the curds are collected, formed, and then aged.
Proper cheese curds for a poutine should be small and kept at room temperature. If the curds are too big they will not melt properly (unless you prefer the cheese in your poutine to be al dente as well) In Quebec, you can purchase cheese curds designated for poutine, it’s indicated on the package. You can also simply chop up any mammoth sized cheese curds.