One of the first things you’re asked if you ever venture down to the Acadian communities of southwestern Nova Scotia is, “Have you had rapure?” Rapure or pate a la rapure is more commonly known as rappie pie in English. It is more akin to a casserole than a pie, but even that is using the term loosely. Its ingredients are modest: potatoes, meat, stock, maybe a little bit of salted onions for flavour — and if you’re feeling luxurious, some salted, crunchy and rendered pork fat on the side. Those who have never been exposed to it often wonder what is on their plate and why it’s there. But trust us. We’ve been eating this for almost 200 years and we’re enthusiastic about it. It’s our comfort food. And reheated rappie pie in a skillet with lots of butter is a wonderful thing indeed.
Râpure / Rappie Pie
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours
2 medium onions, minced
2 Tbsp oil or butter
2 Tbsp salted onions, plus additional 2 tsp (optional)
1 (4 pound) whole chicken, preferably a stewing hen
12 cups cold water (or enough to cover chicken in the pot)
2 bay leaves
3-4 carrots, diced
10 pounds potatoes, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
4 Tbsp minced salt pork (optional)
1. The first thing to do is make the chicken stock. This can be done the day before. In a pot large enough to accommodate your chicken, saute onions in the butter (or oil) until translucent. Add 1 tsp of salted onions if you have them. If not, add a bit of salt to onions to help them sweat.
2. Add chicken and cover with water. Add the bay leaves and carrots. Cover the pot and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to keep the bird at a gentle simmer. Cook for about 1 hour, or until meat is almost falling off the bone, but not quite.
3. Remove the chicken from the pot and strain the stock through a sieve. (At this point you can refrigerate your stock until you need it or just keep it warm if you plan on making the rappie pie at the same time).
4. Shred the chicken into small pieces, discarding the bones and skin. Set aside.
5. Grate your potatoes on a box grater or rasp. Take your time or you’ll end up with bloody knuckles. (Alternatively, you can use a juicer to simultaneously pulverize your potatoes and remove much of the water. The texture will be mildly different, but highly comparable).
6. Place portions of the rasped/grated potato into muslin or kitchen towels. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. You will be adding stock to it afterwards, and you want to get out as much of the liquid as possible. (Tip: squeeze the potatoes into a large measuring bowl. Let’s say you squeeze out 7 ½ cups of potato water, you should add back in about 10 cups of stock. This is the ratio you’re trying to achieve. Adjust accordingly).
7. Bring the stock to a rolling boil. You need it to be as hot as possible to scald the potatoes properly. Heat your oven to 425˚F.
8. Put the potatoes into a large bowl, big enough to accommodate at least twice its volume. (If you don’t have a bowl big enough, do this in batches, making sure to keep your stock as hot as possible for scalding the potatoes.) Break up the potatoes using a hand mixer. Mix in half of the hot stock using a hand mixer and stir it all together, making sure to moisten the potatoes as much as possible. Mix in the rest of the hot stock and keep stirring. The mixture will thicken, but keep stirring for about 2-3 minutes after adding the last of the stock. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper and the salted onions as you go.
9. Pour enough of the potato pulp to cover the bottom of your casserole dish. Add roughly ½ of your chicken, tossing it over the potatoes. Add enough potatoes to just cover the chicken and then add more chicken, finally covering that with the rest of the potatoes.
10. Place the rappie pie into your oven. Bake at 425˚F for 30 minutes and then turn down the heat to 375˚F and bake for another 1 ½ to 2 hours. Occasionally baste the top with butter (or small dice of salt pork) to help the crust brown. The dish is ready when the crust on the top is nice and set and golden brown. Serve warm with loads of butter or possibly a little molasses on the side.
Excerpted from Pantry and Palate: Remembering and Rediscovering Acadian Food @2017 Simon Thibault. Reprinted with Permission from Nimbus Publishing.
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