Duck Poutine Recipe

- If you have just the slightest inkling of Canadian food, chances are you've heard of poutine. The rich comfort food is a greasy spoon favorite, and equally popular among the late-night bar crowd as with hungry skiers on the slopes. 

A combination of fries, gravy, and cheese curds is the basic template for this French-Canadian dish, but part of the fun lies in the endless variations. From bolognese sauce to sweet potato fries, there's plenty of room for experimentation. 

Recipe developer Michelle McGlinn created a gourmet version with duck breast. Not to mention, the classic gravy is taken up a notch thanks to rendered duck fat and cooking juices. if that doesn't scream pure deliciousness, well you might as well give up now — or, follow some of McGlinn's substitutions if duck isn't your thing. Although braising duck breast takes a while, it's well worth the wait as you build up your appetite. Plus, McGlinn offers a super simple shortcut if you want poutine and you want it now. 

She points out, "Like nachos, poutine is fun to share and load up with your favorite toppings," and notes that "It's perfect if you love french fries, or loaded french fries, and can be customized pretty easily." McGlinn concludes, "I mean — I love poutine!" Once you get a taste, you will too.

Gather the ingredients for this duck poutine recipe

You'll need a duck breast, salt, pepper, oil, minced garlic, a small sliced onion, and beef broth for the braise. For the poutine's starchy component, use a bag of frozen french fries. Pick up some rendered duck fat, butter, flour, and reserved cooking liquid (or more beef broth) for the gravy, cheese curds to make this authentic (it's pretty much the only ingredient you can't skip when making poutine), and some rosemary sprigs to serve. 

McGlinn has a handful of suggestions for adapting this recipe, starting with the duck itself. She explains, "Duck confit is the most common restaurant serving style for this," but notes that the process is even longer than her recipe. She adds, "Legs are preferred even in this braising method," because they "are way more tender and forgiving." Nonetheless, the duck breast gets there and she comments, "[it] is still just as flavorful and, with patience, tender and easy to prepare." Alternatively, she says you could just buy premade duck confit and skip the braise. "This will save you 2 hours and will be very similar results!"

If you like the idea of braised meat poutine but aren't up for duck, she suggests substituting with beef chuck roast or chicken thighs.

Score and sear the duck

Start by scoring the duck breast by making shallow diagonal slices in the surface of the skin. Then, score it in the opposite direction to create a crosshatch. Next, sprinkle ½ tablespoon each of salt and pepper over the skin. 

McGlinn explains that "scoring the duck breast allows the fat to render under the skin," adding that it "helps cook duck breast because otherwise, it can be very, very dry." She advises home cooks "not to score too deeply, because the juices will leak out and dry out the meat completely." "If you're having trouble scoring, try freezing the breast for a few minutes and trying again with chilled duck," McGlinn suggests. 

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or a deep skillet on the stovetop on medium-high heat. When the pan is piping hot, place the duck breast skin side down and sear it for about 3 minutes, until the color turns a golden brown. McGlinn cautions against cooking the meat through or flipping the breast. Once it's nice and gold, transfer the duck to a cutting board or plate nearby, leaving the fat in the cooking pan.

Simmer the duck with broth and aromatics

Leave your cooking vessel on the stovetop and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the sliced onions and minced garlic in the duck fat for around 2 minutes so that they soften. Then, transfer the duck breast back into the pot skin side up this time and pour the beef broth over top. 

Raise the heat to bring the contents to a simmer, before decreasing it to low and covering the dish with a lid. Now, cook the duck breast for 2 hours until the meat can be shredded using a fork. 

If you opted for premade duck confit here, you can skip this entire process and simply "reheat the duck on the stove or in the oven with the fries until warm, then pull and make the gravy," McGlinn indicates.

Prepare the french fries

 In the last half hour or so that the duck is cooking, preheat the oven to 425 F. Put 2 tablespoons of rendered duck fat on a sheet tray and place it on an oven rack to melt. Once the fat is liquid, remove the tray from the oven and add the fries, tossing them in the fat to coat. If you've never had fries cooked in duck fat, McGlinn describes that it makes them "crispier and more savory."

Make sure the fries are in a single layer without overlapping and bake them for around 20 minutes, shaking them up halfway through. They're ready when they're golden brown and crispy. Once they're done, remove the sheet tray from the oven and sprinkle ½ tablespoon of salt on top to season the fries.

Shred the duck

When the duck is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and transfer the breast to a cutting board. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid for the gravy. Discard the skin, then using two forks shred the meat into fairly uniform bite-sized pieces.

Make the poutine gravy

Place a skillet or saucepan on the stovetop and melt 2 tablespoons of duck fat and butter. Whisk in the flour and cook the contents until the gravy is golden brown, being careful not to burn it. Pour in 1 cup of cooking liquid as you continuously stir, until the gravy is thick. When it reaches the desired consistency, stir in the shredded duck and season to taste.

Assemble the poutine and serve

To assemble your duck poutine, place the french fries in a large bowl and sprinkle the cheese curds uniformly on top. (For the ultimate experience, layer the fries and cheese curds.) Then, pour the hot gravy over the fries and cheese — you'll notice the curds melt a bit. Finally, sprinkle some fresh rosemary leaves over top and make sure to serve this nice and hot.

Given the components, you're best off eating this duck poutine immediately and avoiding leftovers. Once you dig into this warm satisfying bowl of comfort food, you'll find it hard to leave any behind. As McGlinn comments, "It's really filling and delicious for duck lovers." 



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