This summer I went on a bike tour of the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec with my boyfriend Ben, and we ate plenty of the regional specialties. When thinking of Quebec, the food that immediately comes to mind is poutine, so of course we had to eat some while there. If you’ve ever been to Quebec, chances are you’ve heard of poutine. If you haven’t, it’s a dish of french fries, cheese curd, and gravy. From what I can tell, people either love it or hate it, but in Quebec it seemed like most people love it. I had imagined that it had some kind of interesting history, but after doing only a quick google search it seems that it was invented only about 50 years ago. While it certainly isn’t slow, it’s definitely pretty appetizing after riding a bike all day.
While we only had the standard version, there are supposedly variations depending on what town you’re in and what their local specialties are. In Matane, QC, we had been told that the specialty was poutine with béchamel sauce (instead of gravy), cheese curd and mini shrimp. We were either duped or just didn’t stop at the right restaurant, because we didn’t get to try it, but nonetheless were intrigued by this variation.
Our trip ended in New Brunswick, which has its own take on the dish. When someone tried to explain to us what poutine râpée was, we imagined that it would be hash browns (râpée means shredded or grated) instead of french fries with the usual toppings. But we were in for a surprise. The woman that we ordered it from had made them herself that morning, and wanted to make very sure before she placed out order that poutine râpée was what we actually wanted. When she brought them out a few minutes later, we must have looked shocked because she seemed concerned, and maybe a little hurt. Instead of french fries or even hash browns, it looked like it was just a ball of potato. She told us that people usually either put salt and pepper or sugar on them- we went with the salt and pepper and dug in. The best comparison I can make to try to explain what it was like is that it was sort of like a giant dumpling. It had a think potato “skin” and the center was some sort of mystery meat with a little bit of gravy.
While I can’t say it was delicious, it’s a classic dish of the Acadian people that was certainly worth trying. It also dates back a lot longer than poutine quebecoise- probably to the late 1700-early 1800s.
Since it’s been almost three months since we got back from our trip, Ben and I had a hankering for a little more poutine. Ben was recently in upstate New York, and he picked up some local cheese curd, and I grabbed some potatoes from the farmer’s market in Government Center. We made rosemary oven fries instead of actually frying them: the recipe we looked at said to soak the potatoes in cold water for about 15 minutes before cooking them to make them crispier, but the soaking didn’t end up really helping. We also made a mushroom gravy by just sautéing onion, garlic, and white mushrooms before adding a tiny bit of soy sauce along with the broth and corn starch and letting it simmer down. Putting it all together couldn’t be easier: just put the french fries on a place, cover them with the cheese curd, and pour as much gravy on top as you’d like.
We thought it might have even been better than the poutine we got in Quebec!
Turkish delights, a traditional gummy pistachio candy served with tea.
Overall I would say Turkish food is fairly bland and devoid of big flavors, but this little home turned restaurant served some great traditional fare like this hummus.
Traditional fish and chips with home brewed hard cider to drink.
A traditional Turkish lamb shank with a side of very mushy veggies.
Summer is hot, I know, but sometimes you just gotta turn on your oven and cook something awesome. Well, let me tell you that this recipe is something awesome.
Some people don’t like mushrooms, and I guess I can understand why, but I think they’re great. They’re relatively mild and soak up whatever flavors you mix with them. This recipe has garlic, butter, white wine, and chives. What more could you want? Not much (except maybe dessert- always dessert).
The real recipe name for this is too long, so we just call it the “mushroom pine nut dish.” Feel free to do the same, or dub it something else such as “garlic mushroom thing” or “yummy side dish of excellence;” I grant you creative license. The names may vary in the end, but this is how it comes to be:
*1 lb. mixed large fresh spring mushrooms, such as morel, portobello, shiitake, oyster, cremini and white button, brushed clean
4 T unsalted butter, room temperature
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 T. dry white wine or sherry
1/3 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
1 T chopped fresh chives
1. Preheat an oven to 450°F.
2. Cut the larger mushrooms into pieces so that all the mushrooms, whole and cut, are about the same size. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer in a large roasting pan.
3. In a bowl, using a fork, mix together the butter, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Dot the tops of the mushrooms with small dollops. Sprinkle the wine evenly over all.
4. Roast the mushrooms until they begin to sizzle and brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the pine nuts, and continue roasting until the mushrooms are cooked through and browned in places, 5-10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chives.
*Hey you. Yes, you. If you haven’t ventured outside of the plain, boring, white button mushroom box, then I encourage you to step into the fungi forest. Basically, the weirder the mushroom shape, the more flavor it has. I love really curly, freaky-lookin’ things because they taste unique and earthy and wonderful. Part of what makes this recipe great is using a variety of shrooms, so don’t be shy; give ’em a try!