If you do a search for Montreal online, you’re almost always going to pull up the term ‘food’ on the first page. That’s because as far as Canadian cuisine is concerned, Montreal really is in a league of its own.

The influence of Montreal can be seen in different dishes that pop up straight across Canada. Take Poutine for example – from the tip of Whistler to small town Saskatchewan, you’ll find so many different takes on this Montreal classic that you’d be hard pressed to try them all. My absolute favourite Poutine comes from Zogs in Whistler, and if you’re ever there during Thanksgiving, you have to try the Thanksgiving Poutine with stuffing, cranberries, and gravy.

This week on Shelly’s Friday Favourites, we’re looking at classic Montreal recipes. Maybe you’ll find one you want to whip up and share with friends or family this Holiday season.

Montreal Poutine

Poutine was invented in Quebec around the 1950’s, and by the 1970’s it had already stolen hearts in New York and New Jersey where it was called “Disco Fries.” The classic Montreal Poutine is served with crispy fries, a handful of cheddar curds, and a chicken based gravy.

The Fries

Although a lot of people just buy their French fries in a bag, you can make your own using Idaho or Russet potatoes. Cut the potatoes in sticks no thicker than ¼ of an inch and cook them in a deep fryer.

The Cheese

Cheese curds are the most important part of Poutine. The curds have to be fresh, and should squeak when you chew on it. To find the freshest cheese curds, hit up your local dairy or specialty store.

Creating the sauce

Although Poutine sauce is like gravy, it isn’t exactly gravy. For a real Montreal Poutine, you must use Poutine sauce like the following from Ricardocuisine.com:

Ingredients

  •  30 ml (2 tablespoons) cornstarch
  •  30 ml (2 tablespoons) water
  •  90 ml (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  •  60 ml (1/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  •  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  •  2 cans 284 ml (10 oz) beef broth, undiluted
  •  1 can 284 ml (10 ounces) chicken broth, undiluted
  •  Pepper

Preparation

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring until the mixture turns golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the broth and bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Stir in the cornstarch and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Season with pepper.

Put your Poutine together

The key to making the best Montreal Poutine is to ensure your fries are extra-hot and your cheese curds are room temperature. Place fries in a shallow bowl, sprinkle cheese curds on top of the fries, and pour hot sauce on the curds.

Montreal Smoked Meat

Until I happened upon a local bistro that had them on the menu, I had never tried Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwiches before. Served with a pickle, this piled-high sandwich is one of my favourite menu items ever, and some day I’ll get to Montreal and try an authentic one. In the meantime, this recipe from the Food Network is a great one to tide you over.

A food slicer will ensure the thinnest slices of beef for your sandwich.

Montreal Spice Mix

2 teaspoons peppercorns (10 ml)

1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds (7 ml)

1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds (7 ml)

2 teaspoons fennel seeds (10 ml)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds (5 ml)

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder (5 ml)

1 tablespoon celery seeds (15 ml)

2 allspice berries

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (15 ml)

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons brown sugar (30 ml)

1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt (22 ml)

Montreal Smoked Meat

3 pounds beef brisket, with fat on (1136 grams)

1 cup red wine (250 ml)

3 slices double smoked bacon

2 cups wood chips (such as apple, cherry or maple), soak in water for 5 minutes (500 ml)

Directions

Montreal Spice Mix

1. Over medium heat, toast the peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds mustard seeds, allspice berries, celery seeds in a small sauté pan or cast iron frying pan until fragrant, about 5 to 7 minutes. Grind spices coarsely in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Combine with the ground spices with the dry mustard powder, smoked paprika, garlic, brown sugar and kosher salt.

Montreal Smoked Meat

1. Rub ½ of the spice mixture all over the brisket. Let brisket sit for 1 hour or overnight so flavour permeates the meat.

2. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

3. Fit the rack of a roasting pan into a roasting pan. Add wine to the roasting pan. Put the brisket on the rack. Cover the brisket with the slices of bacon. Cover with foil. Slow cook for 3 hours or until meat is tender.

4. Remove from oven. Add remaining spice mixture. Smoke brisket with the wood chips in a smoker over low flame according to manufacturer’s instructions, about 20 to 30 minutes. Alternatively use your barbecue to smoke the meat. Wrap the wood chips loosely with foil paper. Poke holes in the foil paper. Add wood chips to barbecue on medium high heat. When chips start to smoke turn grill to low heat. Put meat on upper part of grill.

Maple Apple Crisp

Quebec apples, local maple syrup straight from the tree into the can, and a drop of vanilla ice cream – these are the basic ingredients for a heavenly Montreal classic you can make with this recipe from travelnationalgeographic.com

Ingredients:

7 apples (Honeycrisp or Cortland are great), peeled, cored, and sliced
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup butter, softened

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Place apples in an eight-inch-by-eight-inch baking pan, or a pottery flat-bottomed bowl. Toss apples with syrup.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, oats, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle mixture evenly over apples.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, until topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Servings: Serves nine.

A rich history, amazing architecture, and some of the best food you’ll find in Canada – Montreal really does have it all. Tune in next week when we’ll take a look at Christmas as it’s celebrated (and served up) around the world.