We Americans have been the recipients of numerous extraordinary gifts from our neighbors to the north, that bounteous country known as Canada. Oh Canada! How we love thee! Can you imagine a world without the likes of Neil Young, Pamela Anderson, Michael J. Fox, Keanu Reeves, Ryan Gosling…Nickelback?! No, that is not a world for me. But what about all those culinary treasures we’ve been provided with by our friends, the Canucks? Alright, maybe there aren’t really a lot that come to mind here, but it’s impossible to imagine the foodscape of Canada without considering the beauty of poutine.
Why poutine has not infiltrated every corner of the globe is beyond my understanding. Think about it…it’s a bona fide recipe for success, something that should be readily embraced all over the world. Crispy fries, rich brown gravy, gooey cheese curds. I ask you, what’s not to love?
Despite the magic of poutine, it remains an endangered species on most of America’s restaurant menus…especially here in the South.
But poutine lovers in Little Rock can finally stop their pouting, there’s no longer any need to hop the border to obtain Canada’s greatest culinary achievement. Chef Jeff Owen at Ciao Baci has placed poutine on his fall menu…and you all need to get over there and try this stuff.
Owen starts with a plateful of gorgeous sweet potato frittes—thick cut, nicely fried, with a crispy exterior and a soft interior. Owen's handling of these salty, slightly sweet fries make for some seriously top-notch tubers. Next he adds a generous portion of duck confit—tender duck meat slowly simmered in duck fat until the rich, fatty meat is easily pulled from the bone. He also uses this duck fat/meat-dripping mixture to layer the fries in a coat of salty brown gravy. The last essential component of good poutine is added, house-brined mozzarella curds. As the white cheese curds melt and cascade in-between the hot fries, duck, and gravy, it’s nearly impossible to resist the plate's seductive and sultry allure. I think it lasted on our table less than three minutes…no exaggeration.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of a good poutine, this is a very nice introduction to the dish. Sure, you won’t be enjoying it in The Great White North, but if you play Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” loud enough through the car stereo on your trip home, it’s almost just as good.
Find Ciao Baci at 605 N. Beechwood St., Little Rock.