I'm not entirely clear why this is a Peruvian potato poutine. I'm pretty sure by definition poutine involves potatoes; specifically the french fried variety. But, I digress. So what does it mean to make a Poutine -- generally french fries, a brown gravy and cheese curds -- Peruvian? Well for one, it means integrating herbs and spices like thyme, cumin and clove. The other thing it means is swapping those pesky cheese curds for delicious, crumbly queso blanco.
The ingredients here are incredibly easy to find. Honestly, you should have any trouble finding any of this stuff in your local super market. The surprises here don't come from the specific flavors. And on paper they seem to make perfect sense: cumin, thyme, tomato, onion, potato, bacon... the one slightly odd addition is cauliflower, and even that doesn't exactly seem like it's out of left field. Like the plantain dessert, the surprise here is more in the texture than anything else and the way the individual elements play off each other. Watson's contribution is less the combination of flavors but more the presentation.
There are two techniques use here that, while hardly advanced, are a little tough to master, but should be in the arsenal of any serious home cook. First, is the ability to properly caramelize onions. I, for one, am quite terrible at it, as you can see in the photos. Onions are surprisingly high in sugar, and cooking out the extra moisture over low heat brings out their natural sweetness. But achieving that beautiful brown concentrated sweetness takes time and patience. If the heat is too high or you're not vigilant in your stirring, you'll burn the onions before the sugars have a chance to properly caramelize. The other technique is creating a roux. This, like caramelization, takes patience and constant attention. Basically a roux is flour cooked in a fat -- in this case bacon grease. What you're doing is coating the starch granules in fat to keep them from clumping, but achieving this requires constant stirring over low heat to keep the starch moving. Then, once you add the chicken stock, the starch absorbs liquid and thickens the gravy.
To make the poutine, you could certainly buy frozen french fries at the super market. But, if you're looking to take your dish to the next level you can make them yourself. To make the perfect home made fries, first, get yourself a mandoline. While you can certainly cut fries by hand, its faster and easier to do with the widest slicing insert. Then soak the potatoes for at least 30 minutes in cold water before frying. But don't just crank the heat and get the fries brown and crispy. You're going to actually cook the fries twice: first in oil at 300 degrees for roughly five minutes, just until soft. Move the partially cooked potatoes to a parchment lined sheet pan and put them in the freezer. Once frozen you can either put them in a bag for long term storage or immediately remove them for a final frying. Freezing creates ice crystals inside the fries that help create a soft and fluffy texture on the inside while maintaining a crispy exterior. The second fry should be at around 400 degrees and just until the fries are crispy and browned.
The final product: a pile of fries topped with a tomato-based gravy, dressed with queso blanco and roasted cauliflower was delicious. How delicious? Well, this photo was take about two minutes after the plate was passed around to my taste testers.