Poutine… Italian style? We dress up the french fries favorite “consumed by drunken people” late at night with a classy Kitchen Table Gaming version
The origin of Italian Poutine is pretty similar to that of the Elvis Banana Pudding. Except it takes place across a couple of days instead of decades and across international borders instead of mere blocks.
I was having lunch in Renton on a visit to the Wizards of the Coast offices with former New Yorkers Elaine and Kieren Chase. We were eating at Red House which is easily the best food within a reasonable radius of the offices. There is a tremendous food scene in Seattle but it has not quite made it to Renton. That said Red House is excellent and I always look forward to their polenta fries appetizer. I always think about how to make the food I am eating and it occurred to me that I have rarely, if ever, deep-fried anything. I opened up a mental folder for polenta fries and went about my business.
A couple of days later I was in Vancouver for Pro Tour Magic Origins and it was impossible to not see, hear, smell, or generally think about poutine. Poutine is a dish where French fries are put under the broiler with cheese curds and brown gravy and consumed by drunken people late at night. In Brooklyn growing up we called them disco fries and they could feature cheddar, American, or mozzarella cheese with brown gravy.
I had found my mission for the polenta fries and once I thought about using a tomato confit in place of the gravy I knew I would be making this immediately upon getting into my kitchen. You may not want to go through all the steps I have here and you could certainly use a jarred tomato sauce but you could also forgo the polenta and just make the confit. There is little in this world better than these tomatoes on a wide pasta like a tagliatelle with some pine nuts and shaved Parmesan cheese.
Prepared polenta cut into sticks
Vegetable or canola oil for deep frying
6 medium heirloom tomatoes
10 cloves peeled garlic
Olive oil to cover
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup crumbled insalata ricotta
Handful fresh torn basil leaves
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
Let’s Make Some “Poutine”
Slice the stem ends off of the tomatoes and make an “X” incision in flesh on bottom. Blanch tomatoes in a pot of boiling salted water and remove after two minutes and shock them in a large bowl of water and ice. When they have cooled peel the skin off and place each tomato sliced side down into a deep oven proof baking dish (you may need additional tomatoes to fill dish). Nestle the garlic cloves down in between tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and cover with olive oil. Cook dish for 2 hours at 250 degrees. Scoop tomatoes and garlic into a bowl and mash into sauce with a fork.
Heat your frying oil to 365 degrees and in small batches fry the polenta sticks until they are a dark golden brown. Transfer to paper towel lined plate and add salt. When all the “fries” are ready arrange them in an oven proof dish and spoon some of the sauce onto them. Top with the mozzarella and insalata. Spoon a little of the tomato oil over the mound of cheese. Place the dish under the broiler and let the cheese get browned and bubbly. Top dish with torn basil and pine nuts and serve in the baking dish.