Saturday, January 1, 2011

Recipe : "Rapure" or Acadian Rappie Pie

This is a traditional dish, local to Southwestern Nova Scotia and pretty much nowhere else.  I suppose it comes from the days of living off the land and needing to stretch every penny til it hurts and use up every scrap of meat.  It's a dish that takes some getting used to, both in the making of it and in the eating.  Some people simply abhor it no matter what, some love it in any form, and then there are the rest, like me, who like it but only if the texture is just so.  Some people like to make it very soft, almost soupy, and others prefer it to be thick enough to cut into wedges.  Try the recipe once or twice, try the different methods and feel free to put your own spin on it.

Rapure is an excellent way to use up leftover turkey or to take full advantage of a good price on potatoes and meat.

Depending how much rapure you want to make, you must decide for yourself how much chicken & potato to use. To make a large roasting pan full, you will need about 30 lbs of potatoes and two chickens. Scale it down accordingly - for reference, 5 lbs of potatoes will make just enough to serve two adults for supper. You will also need about 1/4 to 1/2 lb of salt pork, onions, carrots, celery, summer savory, chicken bouillon, and pepper. In addition to, or instead of, chicken you can use cooked and shredded pork or beef roast, wild game, or even clams & scallops!  (I do suggest using a disposable foil roasting pan for this as it makes a crust around the edge that is a real chore to remove.)
Now, without further ado...

"Rapure", aka Acadian Rappie Pie

First, you need to make a good chicken broth. You can do this two ways. Here are the directions from the Food Network:

In a roasting pan, roast chicken pieces until golden brown, approximately 1 hour. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside. Deglaze pan with approximately 1 cup of water by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to lift up the brown bits. Transfer liquid to a large stockpot. Once chicken has cooled, separate the meat from the skin and bone and set aside in a bowl. Add bone and skin to stockpot. Pour 2 gallons water into the pot along with unpeeled onions, carrots, and celery. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 2 hours, covered. Drain fat, bones, and vegetables with cone strainer from the broth into a bowl and return strained broth to stockpot. Add peeled onion, salt, and pepper, to taste. Simmer for another 30 minutes or until onions are tender. Keep warm.

Admittedly the above method is probably more flavorful, but if you want to skip the roasting step your other option is:

Put a whole lot of chicken pieces (fresh or frozen) in a large pot. Fill with water to cover. Add two carrots, two stalks of celery and one onion, all cut into chunks. Also add some summer savory to the water, and if you like, add a cube or two of chicken bouillon powder. Bring to a boil and keep on a simmer for 2-3 hours until the chicken is falling off the bones. Scoop the chicken out onto a plate, then pour the liquid & veggies through a colander into a large bowl or pot. Discard the vegetables. Set the broth aside and keep it warm, or if you are doing this a day ahead (not a bad idea), cool and refrigerate. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, separate the meat from the bones and skin, shred it coarsely and set aside (or refrigerate).

Now, to move on to the potatoes. If you live in Nova Scotia, you can buy frozen bags of rappie pie mix. Way easy. If you don't, then you need to start with actual potatoes.

The "real" way to do this: Grate potatoes with a hand grater. Scoop potato mush into cheesecloth and squeeze until all the liquid is removed. (Apparently it works to securely tie up the potato pulp in cheesecloth and put that inside a clean pillowcase, then run the whole thing through the spin cycle on a washing machine. I didn't dare.) Do not discard liquid until you have measured its volume. Place potato pulp into a large mixing bowl. While slowly stirring with a wooden spoon, add hot chicken broth measured to about the same volume as the discarded potato starch liquid. Potato mixture consistency is correct when the wooden spoon just slightly falls over when made to stand up in the mix. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

If you'd like to put some of your 'kitchen servants' to use, you can modify the above... the texture won't be quite the same so try it both ways and see what you prefer.

Peel and chop potatoes into small chunks and run through a juicer. Collect the liquid and do not discard. (If your collection container gets full, pour it out into something bigger.) When the juicer gets full, scoop potato mush into cheesecloth and squeeze until any remaining liquid is removed, collecting the liquid in the same container as the rest. (Don't worry about small chunks or slices that have come through the juicer, but if there are large pieces feed them back through.)  Continue until you have "juiced" all the potatoes. Let the liquid set for about ten minutes until the starch has settled. Measure the liquid for its volume, excluding the starch on the bottom and the foam on top. Discard liquid but keep the solid starch. Place potato pulp into the large bowl of your electric mixer. While running the mixer on slow speed, slowly add hot chicken broth measured to about 3/4 of the same volume as the collected potato starch liquid. Also add back the solid starch that settled out of the liquid you collected, and season with pepper to taste (there should already be plenty of salt if you have used salt pork & bouillon). Continue to mix until there are no lumps and, as above, a wooden spoon just slightly falls over when made to stand up in the mix.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel and chop one onion.

Slice salt pork. In a saute pan, fry the salt pork just to render the fat, remove salt pork, and set aside. Add the rendered fat and a several pieces of salt pork to the bottom of the roasting pan.

(Note here re: salt pork. It is not all the same. Some of it is literally coated with salt. This kind needs to be rinsed off and should be soaked overnight and the water discarded before using. Otherwise you will have a VERY salty rapure!)

Add a 1-inch layer of potato mixture on top of the fat, then add a layer of meat and chopped onion. Repeat process until last layer of potato mixture is on top. Add a few salt pork strips to the top of your potato pie, or strips of bacon if you like. Bake for 2 hours until a brown crust has formed. Dot the surface with chunks of butter and return to the oven for about one more hour.

Serve hot with butter, salt & pepper, molasses, and a big stack of freshly made molasses brown bread. Enjoy!

Leftover Rappie Pie will refrigerate well for a few days. It will also freeze but if you freeze it you should re-heat it in a frying pan or the oven, NOT in the microwave or it will have a watery texture.

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