Caramelized onion, Cheese, gravy and French-fry (poutine) smothered burger.
Next stop, Canada! I keep hearing the refrain from the South Park Movie – Blame Canada. It’s been really annoying. The whole time I’ve been working on Canada, it keeps looping, repeating incessantly in my head (I know that’s redundant, but that’s how annoying it is). The worst part is that “Blame Canada” are the only words I remember, so I can’t really seem to get closure, cause I can’t finish the song. I’m hoping that writing this up and moving on to the next country will be the fix I need. So, Canada is a really big country at the northern end of North America. It spans the full continent east to west, so it’s pretty big :).
I grew up in Michigan and Canada was so close I barely thought of it as a different country, let alone foreign. I’ve been to Canada more times than I can remember, I have eaten in many fine Canadian restaurants, and I’ve even been in love with a Canadian. But when I started thinking about a burger recipe, I was stumped. There isn’t any food that I’ve had in Canada that I thought of as quintessentially Canadian. The food is similar to what we have in the U.S. and the burgers are pretty much the same too. So, I decided to treat Canada like any other country and research it – go online and see what people say about Canadian food. It seems most countries have one or two dishes that people (either from that country or not) deem “the national dish”. Canada is no different. Poutine is the dish that gets the most mentions as “the national dish”. It’s also a dish that you can’t get too many other places (although the Internet claims that it’s served in a lot of places in the Midwest U.S., I have never seen it on a menu in the States.
Poutine is pretty simple, French fries, gravy and fresh cheese curd. It’s usually served as dish unto itself, but I, of course, figured it would be just as good on a burger! Good so far, now the problems begin. Fresh cheese curd is impossible to find, ok, not impossible, just really difficult. I called local cheese shops, I tried to order online ($50 for shipping because it has to be over-nighted! No way!), I finally gave up and decided to use fresh mozzarella and melt it on the burger and give up on the “squeak” of fresh curd. I didn’t give up exactly, I also ordered a cheese making kit and will try to make some curd myself, but that isn’t going to happen for a couple of weeks, so we’ll proceed without it. I’ll be sure to write up the cheese making experience when I get time to try it – but I’m figuring most of you aren’t interested in making your own cheese, right?
Now for the gravy. The most common is a light gravy – chicken/poultry based. If you want to get all French and chefy, velouté. I was hoping that I could get gravy from the grocery store where they have the rotisserie chickens and that it would taste good. Neither of the stores I went to sold gravy with their chickens (what do they do with the drippings?). So then I tried dry packets, cartons and jars of pre-made sauce. I won’t name the brands because all of the dried packets were TERRIBLE! The best tasted like thyme and nothing else, the worst tasted like feet. None tasted like chicken. So, I bought some chicken thighs and roasted them with a few mushrooms and made a gravy from the drippings and water. It was delicious and the chicken meat made a good salad. If you get in a bind, the best pre-made gravy I found was Heinz Home Style Chicken Gravy – in a jar, but I recommend just making a white sauce with homemade chicken stock, it’s got a much better flavor.
For the fries I just bought frozen fries. Yes, homemade fries would be better, but they are a pain to make and the frozen alternative is so easy. Also, it’s hard to get a crispy homemade French fry, and you do want them crispy so that the whole burger doesn’t turn into a soggy mess.
Lastly I broke with poutine tradition and added caramelized onions to the top – the sweetness and the moisture worked perfectly with the fries and the gravy and gave a greater richness to the dish. We served our burgers with a Washington State cabernet (my store doesn’t carry Canadian wines) and it was light and balanced the potentially heaviness of the dish (we also decided to go open faced in order to not over starch ourselves). The result was a rich savory burger that was surprisingly not overly heavy. The light mushroom flavor in the gravy really added to the overall effect. I still think it’s suited more to autumn or winter than a warm August evening, but what the heck do I know?
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
4 Brioche buns
butter (at room temperature)
2 cups cooked French fries (preferably thick cut)
2 cups Chicken Gravy
Mix ground beef with salt and pepper and form into 4 patties. Grill to desired temperature. In the meantime, slice the brioche buns and spread butter on each side, grill until lightly browned (you can also use just two buns if you want to do open faced sandwiches). Placed cooked patties on the grilled buns. Add fries to each burger then pour on a generous helping of gravy and top with caramelized onions. Serve hot.
4 chicken thighs (bone in and skin on)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon olive oil
6 mushrooms quartered and stemmed
1 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1-2 cups water
2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
Rinse the chicken thighs and pat dry. Sprinkle salt and thyme over both sides of chicken. Preheat oven to 350°F. In an ovenproof skillet, heat oil to shimmering. Place chicken in pan skin side down and cook until lightly browned (about 3 minutes). Turn chicken, add mushrooms and chicken stock and put in over for 15 minutes. Add water and cook for an additional 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Strain the drippings (use the chicken for another dish). Taste the drippings and adjust seasoning.
In a saucepan, melt butter over med-low heat. Add the flour stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the chicken drippings whisking vigorously. Turn the heat to med-high and whip until sauce comes to a boil. Stir for another minute until it reaches desired thickness. Use immediately.
2 large onions sliced in halve then sliced into ¼ inch slices
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and stir until well coated with oil. Turn heat down to med-low and cook for 20-30 minutes until sweet and soft.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach