For those I haven’t babbled to incessantly about it, my mom’s side of the family shares a lodge in middle-of-nowhere Michigan; otherwise known as a town called Grayling. Grayling is in the middle of the state, about 240 miles northwest of Detroit. While that may sound grim, Grayling is also located on the Ausable river where I’ve been canoeing, fly fishing (poorly), and tubing for 30 years.
The lodge is named Matabanic and is an incredibly relaxing place to spend a week. The past few years I haven’t visited regularly due to weddings and not putting in enough effort, but every time I go out there I am incredibly critical of myself for not getting there more.
For the past ten years we have been heading to Matabanic every other year for Christmas. It’s always a very relaxing few days with some great meals. Tim and I tend to spend the few weeks before the trip talking about meals to make and generally bring our A game to Michigan. Our last trip two years ago was tough at times since it was my father’s final Christmas but our return this year had a new bright spot. In the form of this little lady:
Actually, there were two bright spots, since we also discovered these little dudes:
My mother has gone to Goodale’s Bakery in Grayling for years so we were well aware of how good their baked goods, particularly their sour cream donuts, are. What we were completely unaware of until Tim, Kristi, and my first visit two weeks ago was their local meat and cheeses section. While Tim eyed the packages of pickled bologna longingly, I had my heart set on the cheese curds since they are the key to one of my favorite unhealthy foods: Poutine.
I last had true Poutine at the Mooman’s bachelor party in Montreal in 2006. A Quebec drunkards delicacy, Poutine consists of french fries and slightly melted cheese curds, all smothered in a couple ladles of rich beef gravy. Well, you know where this is going, let’s roast some bones!
The bones were slathered with tomato paste, salt, and pepper and headed into the oven at 450F to roast for a half hour. With the family begging me to turn up the exhaust fan, I pulled the bones out of the oven and covered with chopped onion, celery, garlic, and carrots.
After another 30-45 minutes in the oven, I had the nice roasted char I was looking for.
From there I dumped in a bottle of red wine and turned up the heat to high.
I let this boil for about 15 minutes to reduce the wine by a little over half. The smell of roasted bones, vegetables and boiling red wine is incredibly wonderful, but totally backfired on me. Basically, the stock needed to cook for another two hours before it could be turned into gravy and poured over the fries, but the smell made everyone hungry. Soooo, everyone ate lunch instead of waiting for the poutine. Freakin’ jerks.
Once the wine had reduced I poured in about 8 cups of water, added a bay leaf and simmered for a couple hours.
While the reduced broth simmered, I made an roux with 2 tablespoons of butter and flour and let it darken for about 10 minutes, whisking regularly.
It’s time I address the fries. After much consideration of the lack of ventilation, the likelihood of burning myself, and the even higher likelihood of me not making the homemade fries crispy enough due to impatience, I went with the experts instead. That’s right, I went with the geniuses of Ore Ida and their new line of extra crispy crinkle cut fries. I have zero regrets about this decision
After the fries went into the oven, I started to whisk the reduced broth into the roux with the goal of adding just enough to make a thin gravy.
While the gravy simmered, I piled the fries up on a plate and put a heavy sprinkling of cheese curds over the top of the fries.
The plate then went into the oven to warm for a few minutes and melt the cheese curds a bit. A couple ladles of gravy later, and I had myself some poutine.
Eating poutine is an urgent event. A) It gets soggy ridiculously quick if you let it sit in the gravy and B) it is delicious and needs to be shoveled into your mouth with barely enough time to chew.
With that in mind, you can imagine how angry I was when the poutine was ready and nobody was around to eat it except my highly skeptical wife. Tim was napping, Mom was wrapping presents, and John was probably building a rocket ship to fly to the moon or some crap. Luckily, it was good and I took one for the team.
This was as simple as food comes (despite all the preparation); combine three delicious unhealthy foods to make one mega unhealthy delicious food. The gravy was rich and winey, the cheese curds were gooey and chewy and the fries were crispy and salty. Just a wonderful combination, one that you cant justify indulging in more than once every couple years.
Next week is likely dumplings and crab rangoons. Getting back on the weekly thing again.