“Eating vegetarian is a culture that grows every day,” acknowledges Gérôme Paquette, chef at L’Gros Luxe (www.lgrosluxe.com), a small chain of restaurants committed to a healthy lifestyle. “People are more cautious about what they are eating.”
But that doesn’t mean that diners want to give up flavor—or comfort food favorites such poutine. And Paquette (above left) is happy to oblige. “Creating a vegetarian version of poutine is not that complicated,” he says. He points out that it’s all about balancing flavors and textures of the sauce and topping ingredients.
In place of the typically rich meat gravy, Paquette creates a vegetable stock that he seasons as if it were a meat stock. For his Poutine Thai, he ladles the thickened veggie stock over the frites and adds the requisite cheese curds. He then and tops the basket with a substantive salad of bean sprouts, green onions, and cilantro. He drizzles a little hoisin sauce over it all, sprinkles on a few dashes of sriracha, and adds wedges of lime for the diners to squeeze over the dish to taste.
The result is a surprisingly elegant presentation. The gravy does not obscure the brightly colored vegetables and crisp frites. The sriracha adds a bit of heat and the bean sprouts and peanuts add a good crunch to contrast with the soft frites. It’s a dish that looks good, tastes good and is fun to eat. In truth, a serving of poutine can seem a little monotonous by the end. But the variations in texture and pops of flavor keep this version interesting down to the last bite. It is, in fact, the best seller at the L’Gros Luxe outpost. The woman above was thrilled to find a vegetarian option at the Poutinefest.
Paquette is humble about the success of the dish. “It’s good to create something with elements that you don’t think will go together – but they do,” he says.