Most folks outside of Quebec see poutine as a put-down or a punchline. The cholesterol-heavy combo of french fries, gravy and cheddar cheese curds has a fanatical following but rarely shows up in restaurants west of la Belle Province. "We put it on our menu as a joke," says Patriot owner Scott Willows, whose upscale Yorkville eatery specializes in Canadian cuisine, "but now it's one of our biggest-selling dishes." True, Patriot's version ($7.50) features hand-cut Yukon Gold fries, Prince Edward County cheese curds -- randomly shaped lumps of fresh, young cheddar before it's processed into blocks and aged -- and substitutes rich veal demi-glace for canned gravy.
Purists may insist that poutine is best sampled from a chip wagon and served in a styrofoam bowl, but home cooks will find the Quebecois culinary classic easy to make.
Curds can be found at cheese shops and some supermarkets, and their freshness is essential -- they make the poutine "squeak." Canned St. Hubert brand barbecue-style gravy is available at Dominion ($1.39/398 ml).
Simply deep-fry a mess of french fries, place them in a large bowl with as many cheese curds as you dare and cover with heated gravy. Let everything sit for a few minutes until the cheese melts, et voila, poutine!