At the beginning of this year, my thirtieth coincidentally, I quit my longtime job in the craft beer industry to pursue a career in writing, despite strong disapproval from pretty much everyone I knew. Most of my friends thought I had the coolest job ever working for a microbrewery; an endless supply of free and badass beer can make anyone think that, myself included. But once I sobered up, I saw my career there going nowhere fast, and I wasn't a kid anymore; it takes more than a buzz to stimulate my mind these days.
For the past few months I've been working on that writing career from home, and essentially for myself. I originally thought this would be a piece of cake, but quickly learned that it's definitely not. It's a huge adjustment, and for me, the biggest challenge has been time management. It seems like there's not nearly enough time in a day to do everything I want to, but I'm getting the hang of it.
In the meantime, I've been making less frequent grocery runs, and the cupboards have become more barren. And come dinner time the other night, as my hungry girlfriend irritably traversed traffic on her way home from a long day at work, I was faced with a challenge. I didn't know what to cook, and didn't have much to work with.
Enter the humble, yet noble potato.
I recently wrote about the convenience, inexpensiveness and versatility of the potato and I stand by my argument; its a crucial ingredient in any kitchen. You really can do amazing things with it in a pinch. This time I decided to fry them, thinking fresh french fries would be just the thing after a stressful day at the office. But I needed to make something more substantial than that, and for some reason (quite possibly my ancestry), poutine came to mind. The application of cheese curds and hot gravy to a large pile of starchy fries can certainly make a meal, and if consumed in the company of a good ale, it can satisfy the soul to boot.
I had a bomber of Ska Brewing's Nefarious Ten Pin Imperial Porter in the fridge and assumed its port-like boldness would pair well with the salty dish. I also happened to have the surprisingly few elements required to make a good, savory gravy. I did not however, have the time to find fresh cheese curds, so I improvised a little (which I'm sure is how the dish originated anyway) and used some nice mozzarella I had bought from Tony's Market that week instead.
I thought it was an awesome meal, my girlfriend on the other hand absolutely hated it. We've been together for three years now and I still can't for the life of me predict what she wants at any given moment, I'm determined to figure it out one of these days though. I enjoyed the sloppy goodness all to myself, and contently washed down each salty bite with the sweet (more so than other imperial porters I've had) and roasty thick beer, while my girlfriend snacked on the parboiled potato slices I had yet to fry, which suited her just fine strangely. And my initial fear of her dissatisfaction was dismissed soon thereafter...
Here's the recipe:
2 tablespoons of butter 2 tablespoons of flour 2 cups of chicken or beef stock 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary chopped (optional) 2 large russet potatoes (preferably from White Mountain Farms, good enough to snack on plain I'd say) rinsed and sliced 1/2 cup of fresh cheese or cheese curds Canola or vegetable oil Salt to taste Fresh ground pepper to taste
1. In a large pot, melt butter slowly over medium heat. 2. Add flour and stir till combined, creating a roux. 3. Cook slowly until the roux has a toasted brown color. 4. Add broth, stir to combine and bring to a boil. 5. Reduce heat to medium low, add rosemary and let simmer until thick (about 20 minutes). 6. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. 7. Cover to keep warm. 8. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. 9. Add potatoes slices and boil for about 4 minutes. 10. Transfer slices to an ice bath, remove when cool and pat dry. 11. Fry in hot oil until golden brown. 12. Top with cheese and gravy and serve forth.