Poutine wars! What is the perfect cheese to top your poutine with? As it turns out, the war has been waging in Quebec and across North America in places for quite some time.
As a Montrealer, Poutine is pretty much a staple of my diet. I’ve had many a cheat meal with this dish here as the main focus; of course in Montreal a variety of toppings are often added, making this delight that much more spectacular and a complete meal in and of itself.
But a war has indeed been raging in Montreal and abroad dear readers…and that war is all about what cheese best compliments the enigmatical dish known quite simply as: Poutine.
To take you back to my college days, Poutine was a definite main component of my diet back then, and yeah, I still got to the gym and was able to melt the extra calories away when trying to. The body works differently when you’re young and in college…
Anyways, after many late evening library sessions doing research, a trip to a late night local diner that was near my campus was often in order, and poutine was the main focus of that place. Of course they had hot dogs as well.
They also had a whopping list of twenty-five different toppings for their poutine: Hot dogs, pepperoni, and gyros, even cut up corn dogs and sautéed mushrooms and onions.
What are cheese curds anyways? And do they really beat mozzarella or any other cheese when topping the perfect Poutine?
Now for the purpose of this story I’ll add that I grew up in the East End of Montreal, and most restaurants back there—usually pizza places with a plethora of Italian and/or Greek dishes added to the mix for good measure—always served poutine and when it did, it always came with mozzarella.
My mom even made a homemade version, and yes, you guessed it, Mozzarella was the topper (and it was delicious by the way). In the end though, that’s the thing: It isn’t at all awful with mozzarella as a topper, but once you taste poutine with curds, it’s kind of hard to make your way back to the way things once were.
Kind of like life, eh? Anyways….
As per Wikipedia, cheese curds are made by adding cheese cultures and enzymes to pasteurized milk. The milk then curdles…. It is then cut into cubes. It’s after this point that you get essentially a mix of curds (solid) and whey (liquid), and the goal is to separate the liquid from the solid by cooking and pressing it. The end result is a fresh yet grainy piece of cheese.
Poutine, by the way, is a dish served with fries at the bottom, topped with the star cheese in question; you can then add any ingredient you like and top the whole thing off with gravy…. In case you weren’t aware, dear readers…figured I’d mention that here.
But it was at this diner, or ‘casse croute,’ as they’re known in Quebec, that I got to taste my very first poutine with cheese curds on top instead of mozzarella, and boy did it change my perspective. Unless in a pinch, I would never eat poutine with mozzarella on top again if I could help it. That was the vow I made then.
When I first got served the poutine I thought they had topped it with misshapen Bocconcini, but they were ‘Fromage en grain,’ as cheese curds are called in Quebec, which is of course apropos because of their grainy texture.
It took one bite, folks. The contrast is what really did it, because in most cases when served fresh, the cheese curds are still cold, and the contrast of the crispy fried fires and the hot molten gravy (the saltier the better), makes it one of those perfect bites I’m always going on and on about in my pieces.
So if looking for a definitive answer to the debate, well you have my exact opinion there above in black and white.
The mozzarella melts away too quickly under the pressure of the heat, dissolves sometimes, whereas the integrity of the cheese stays intact when using curds, which really is the plan isn’t it, to distinctly taste every ingredient?
Imagine spaghetti in a meat sauce and then out of nowhere the meat dissolves!! I mean come on!!
Now, if cheese that melts quickly is your thing, then eat it the way you like, and don’t let anyone change your mind—including me, dear readers. After all, the perfect bite is always up to you in the end.
So…which side of the food war are you on? Cheese curds or mozzarella? Or…do you go with another type of cheese, dear readers?