Poutine: To Vegan or Not to Vegan – by Mikaela Immenschuh

Poutine: To Vegan or Not to Vegan
Written, Cooked, and Taste Tested by Mikaela Immenschuh

Well y’all we have our FIRST “&Co.” Post.

If you ever read my welcome post to this new blog you will understand that I created a new platform to not only share my own fun recipes, crazy antics, and weird life, but I also created it so others could share as well!

Mikaela Immenschuh is my cousin. First cousin on the Immenschuh side of the house? Yes, she was my first cousin because I disliked her for quite some time …. she stole all of MY attention. Yet, as in all Immenschuh blood somewhere along in your life you pick up any cooking utensil and realize you’re gifted ….. maybe not in anything else, but you can sure as shit cook well! “Sure as shit” coined and owned by Grandma I.

Mik taught me how to take my first “professional” photos of the food I made. She loves dogs, takes weird pictures of dogs, and eats snacks in the bathtub …. seriously what more could you ask for?

She definitely is my favorite cousin. Marissa is a close tie though because she licks the flavoring off Doritos and I am finding I do this now with lime Tostitos … as a 28 year old adult (covid stole my birthday). She cheers for everyone … even me, and understands everyone is a little gay. “Everyone is a little gay” coined and owned by me.

Long story short – she is an awesome cook as is everyone in our family but we definitely test borders in our recipes! Go check out what she made, leave a comment, share, whatever!

Cheer for everyone!

Krystal Renee – Enjoy the recipe!

Poutine: the perfect way to shed three years off of your life in one sitting and a great excuse to bust out your fat girl pants. Crispy hot fries, ooey gooey balls of cheese curd, and a delicious savory gravy all compiled into one dish. What more could you ask for?! 

Poutine is a Canadian dish and it’s arguably the most perfect, shareable bar food that exists. And what better way to spend quarantine than to discover whether or not this delicious dish can be successfully vegan’d, or if the authentic creation shall remain bustin’ buttons and spiking cholesterol all over the world!

Now, I don’t personally follow any diet or lifestyle that significantly affects what I can eat. But more recently, I’ve been curious about exploring healthier, more sustainable ways of cooking and eating. Attempting to recreate plant-based dishes has been something I’ve enjoyed doing over the past year. But I still enjoy the freedom of comparing meals, and trying various methods of preparation with no strict boundaries or expectations.

So, why not see if Poutine can be vegan’d? Time to get fat!

For this experiment, I made two versions side by side for the taste test.

Let’s start with the vegan recipe!

While the french fries can remain the same, the vegan version requires adjustments to the cheese and the gravy. Veganism is an eating style that refrains from all meat and animal products, including butter, cheese, and sometimes even honey. So first, we gotta make a cheese substitute! I personally followed this recipe here: https://thishealthykitchen.com/vegan-mozzarella-cheese/

½ cup of cashews (soaked in hot water for 30 mins)

¼ tapioca starch

2 tbsp Nutritional yeast

½ teaspoon of sea salt

1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

1 cup of water (added ½ at a time)

Blend all ingredients together, then throw the mixture into a pan over medium heat. Within minutes, a ball of stretchy mozzarella-like “cheese” forms. I transferred the cheese into an oiled bowl and put it in the fridge to cool.

Next up, vegan gravy! 

Traditionally, both beef and chicken broth can be used to make the poutine gravy, but in this case, I decided to make an enriched veggie stock. This step is not necessary as store bought veggie stock would work just fine. But because I had everything on hand, I took this route for extra fun and flavor! I followed this recipe for the enriched broth: https://basicswithbabish.co/basicsepisodes/poutine

For the enriched broth:

1 yellow onion

3 large carrots 

3 celery sticks

2 garlic cloves (smooshed)

2 sprigs of thyme

A pinch of fresh cilantro

1 green onion

2 tbsp olive oil

32 oz Vegetable stock, unsalted

First, I washed and roughly chopped the veggies. I brought my dutch oven up to medium heat, then added the olive oil, carrots, celery, and onion. These veggies can take a bit of heat, and the more color they take on, the more flavor they will add to the stock! After 5 or 6 minutes, I added the garlic. (Garlic has a lower heat tolerance and can become bitter if burned, so I’d recommend waiting to add it until the other veggies have already started to brown).

Once your veg has a decent toast n’ roast, add one 32oz box of unsalted vegetable stock to your pot along with the fresh herbs. Simmer for 1 hour before straining.

For the vegan gravy I followed this recipe : https://thishealthykitchen.com/vegan-poutine/

¾ cup of vegetable stock

1 teaspoon of soy sauce (tamari works as a GF alternative)

1 teaspoon of flour 

Add stock and soy sauce to a saucepan, bringing up to medium heat. Add in flour and whisk over medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken. (For me, the vegan gravy didn’t get very thick)

For the french fries!

I totally cheated and got the frozen Ore Ida French fries as opposed to making my own. I chose to shallow fry mine since I was making two rather small batches. I used about a cup of vegetable oil over medium heat in a cast iron pan, and fried the french fries until crispy and browned. Salt immediately once removed from oil!

Now onto the traditional version!

While I originally just planned making the vegan version, I wanted to see how it really compared to the traditional dish. So here is what I did!

For the traditional cheese curds

Cheese curds are hard to come by here in California. They are often served at restaurants, but finding them in a store is nearly impossible! Cheese curds are typically cheddar, so I used Babybel cheese rounds as an alternative. Babybels are a light cheddar, soft and bouncy, and somewhat similar to a cheese curd in my opinion. I used two rounds, ripped into curd-sized chunks!

For the Traditional gravy

I used ¾ cup of chicken stock

1 tbsp of the enriched veggie stock

1 tbsp of butter

1tbsp of flour.

I made the traditional gravy by starting with a roux. First, melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add flour. Whisk until it forms a thick paste, and continue to stir for 3 or 4 minutes, allowing some of the flour flavor to cook out. Turn down the heat if it begins to brown quickly.  Next, slowly add in the stock while continuing to whisk. Whisk your heart out until all lumps have disappeared and velvety gravy forms!

The french fries were prepared the same way, refer to french fry recipe above!

NEXT THE TASTE TEST!

Two bowls of friend fries, one plant based, the other authentic cuisine! 

                               Vegan                                                              Traditional

First- before tasting, the gravies were noticeably different in texture. The vegan gravy was very thin as opposed to the traditional gravy that thickened up well, which I think had mostly to do with starting out making a roux, which the vegan recipe didn’t call for.

Second, the vegan cheese was extremely sticky. I thought putting it in the fridge would help it firm up, but it remained very sticky and gooey, and it was honestly fairly difficult to manage, shape and clean up.But, I found the recipe and chemistry to be fairly creative. It just didn’t quite suit my needs!

As for the taste test!

The vegan cheese curds had decent taste, but the texture was nowhere close to real cheese. I think next time I would attempt a different recipe or try store-bought vegan cheese as a different alternative. Next, the vegan gravy had good flavor, but the soy sauce was pretty pungent even though it was only a teaspoon. To me, it didn’t taste like a traditional gravy, but more like a sauce with unique Asain twang. If I were to do it again, I think I would just season with regular salt as opposed to soy sauce, and use vegan butter or coconut oil to make a roux in hopes of thickening up the gravy, for a more authentic taste and texture. 

The traditional style had a more consistent flavor profile, and the chicken stock gravy yielded a much more “home-style” experience. I would also suggest using babybels as a cheese curd replacement to anyone, because I think it was a perfect alternative!

Overall, I do think the vegan recipe could use some tweaking in order to provide a more authentic taste. But it was nonetheless enjoyable to try! Can poutine be vegan’d? I’m not convinced yet. Can it be vegetarian’d? I believe so! But there’s something very special about the traditional method, and I can see why it became so popular! 

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