The biggest trend in the modern culinary world is to take classic dishes — which were essential to many a childhood — and enhance them in any number of ways. ‘Gourmet’ classics have included everything from ice cream and cookies to tacos, chicken nuggets and more.
But is all this change a good thing? Do these elaborate, extravagant expansions upon classic dishes actually make them better, or would we be better served just sticking to the timeless recipes that have always existed?
To help shed some light on this (as of this moment now) heavily-debated topic, we’ve got some of the most popular dishes that have been given the gourmet treatment, and if they’re really a big improvement.
While the poutine is already a gourmet item of sorts — it’s French fries with cheese curds and gravy — it’s also established as a classic comfort food, and now has been expanded even further.
Modern gourmet poutines have toppings ranging from chicken, ground beef and pulled pork to curried lentils, lobster and ‘Thanksgiving’ poutine (turkey, stuffing and cranberries). Plus the classic beef gravy can now be substituted for chicken gravy, mushroom gravy, tomato sauce, alfredo sauce and more. And then there’s this crazy candy poutine.
But is this really necessary? Nobody is going to argue with a poutine topped with pulled pork, bacon and ham (otherwise known as a triple pork), but there’s something to be said for the classic, Quebec-born poutine recipe, which still stands strong nearly 70 years since its creation.
A staple of many childhoods, hamburgers and hot dogs are grouped together because they traditionally had the three condiments (ketchup, mustard or relish) and weren’t exactly made from filet mignon beef. The idea of gourmet extended strictly only to adding bacon and a slice of processed cheese.
But even the simplest of BBQ must-haves can receive a taste lift. Today burgers are made with beef brisket, prime rib, wagyu beef and, yes, filet mignon. Hot dogs come in any number of sizes, and can be made from turkey, chicken, pork or switched out for sausages. Every cheese imaginable is available as a topping, along with creatively-flavoured sauces (and spreads like peanut butter, jam and Nutella), specially-prepared vegetables (think caramelized onions, olive tapenade and grilled eggplant) and — most importantly — a plethora of bacon.
Honestly, your standard street vendor offers a close to 10 toppings and sauces for your dogs and ‘burgs, so a full-restaurant can take it one step further. And while the classic version is great, even the concept of a burger or hot dog with multiple bacons and awesome cheese is, well, yesyesyesyesyes.
Another timeless snack, the combination of cheddar cheese, plain white bread, butter and a skillet resulted in the culinary magic that was a warm, crispy and soul-reviving grilled cheese sandwich.
The evolution of the grilled cheese has been a slow process, as it first began with different and exciting cheeses being substituted (or added to) the standard cheddar. Then it was artisan breads tagging in for white bread. And then the additional toppings came.
Adding toppings such as prosciutto, chicken or tuna, plus various styles of pesto, salsa and guacamole and then all types of vegetables (and more) has made the grilled cheese sandwich into a completely irreplicable (and always unique) taste experience.
But is that necessary? The modern, gourmet grilled cheese is delicious, but there was also something wholesome and fun about just having melted cheese on toasted bread.
Yes, this is a cocktail being mentioned in a food blog, but even the beverage industry is not safe from the gourmet food revolution. An iconic Canadian drink, the Caesar (composed of vodka, clamato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and a celery salt-rimmed glass) is traditionally garnished with a lime, celery stalk, and either a pickle or pickled bean.
But the Caesar garnish has become more enhanced lately, with some bars adding smoked bacon, cooked shrimp, lobster tails, onion rings, Montreal-style smoked meat on a piece of bagel, quail eggs, oysters and then this all-out monstrosity.
While that last garnish is obviously over-the-top, many restaurants have been putting more effort and focus on the edible component — and losing the essence of the drink.
Let’s not all forget, sometimes there is too much of a good thing (except bacon, there’s never too much bacon).