Photo by Meredith

Quick: What's Canadian for a hot (and yummy) mess? Poutine! What's poutine? French fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds. (The latter are little lumps of fresh cheese with a firm but springy texture and a mild, salty flavor. They're sometimes called "squeaky cheese" because the super-elastic proteins in the fresh curds make a squeaky noise as you chew them.) It sounds weird, yes, but trust us, it's bizarrely delicious. And it's starting to appear on both fancy and casual menus across the U.S.

Legend has it that poutine (poo-TEEN) got its start in 1957 at a Quebec restaurant. A diner asked for fries with cheese curds in a bag to go, and the owner retorted (in French, being Quebecois) that it would make une maudite poutine—a damned mess. Some say that's how the dish got its name. Others think "poutine" is a twist on the word "pudding." Another Quebec restaurateur actually trademarked the title "The Inventor of Poutine," claiming he added the all-important gravy to the dish in the 1960s.

Poutine is on the menu at many fast-food restaurants in Canada and gets celebrated each February during La Poutine Week. Fast-food chain Wendy's Canada even launched a Facebook "poutition" to make it the national dish.

In the U.S., Chicago now hosts its own Poutine Fest in February. And American chefs are dishing up versions topped with upscale ingredients such as pork belly, lobster, and duck confit (because, you know, we need more fat on our gravy-and-cheese-topped fries).

Haven't seen poutine on a menu near you yet? Get ahead of the trend and make your own at home! Click here to see how.


This article was originally publishes in Allrecipes magazine.