This past summer my husband and I and several friends motorcycled to the Canadian Maritimes. The day we crossed the border we met two Canadian couples, also motorcyclists, heading back across the border in the opposite direction to New Brunswick.
While we were packing up the bikes the two ladies and I got into a conversation about the wonderful food we had eaten while on our trip and that I posted our eating experiences on the trip on my blog. I mentioned to them our trying poutines on the ferry to PEI. One of the women, Andréa, immediately said, “I have a really good Acadian poutine recipe that you should try. It is so good”. I told her that if she sent me the recipe I would indeed try it and then blog about how it turned out.
Well, she did and then I did and here is my story about a food called Poutines Rapées, which literally translates to grated pudding, but in actuality, is potato dumplings Acadian style. Andréa sent me an email with a link to website featuring traditional New Brunswick recipes saying “I met you in Portland Maine and we talked about the Acadian Poutine. Check out this website with many traditional New Brunswick recipes”.
Quoting from the website featuring recipes from New Brunswick, “For many Acadians living in southeastern New Brunswick, Poutine Rapeè, potato dumpling dish with a mixture of seasoned port in the center, is considered a national dish.”
I love potatoes but had never made potato dumplings so I was really looking forward to this project. By the time I got finished with my first try at making the dumplings I felt like such a rookie in the kitchen.
The recipe was simple enough and I only needed a few ingredients. I have never used salt pork before and thought I would have to ask the butcher where it was located but I found it easily. Then I needed to buy a grater. Boy did that bring back memories. I have not used a food grater since I was a young girl in my mom’s kitchen back in Brooklyn. Back then I would help my mom grate potatoes and onions for potato pancakes. YUM!
I was all set to put the dumplings together and realized I had forgotten to soak the salt port overnight so I had to put the cooking off for the next day. I got everything set up and then made the mashed potatoes. Then I peeled and started to grate the other potatoes.
By the time I finished grating the ten potatoes I had band-aids on four fingers. I strained out all the water from the grated potatoes and added what was left to the mashed potatoes. I rolled the potatoes into balls and placed the salt pork in the center closing the hole and then rolling the potato balls in flour.
As I was rolling the potatoes I thought that they felt a little too wet but kept working anyway. I dropped the balls into the boiling water and thought okay this looks pretty good. I set the timer on the stove and walked away returning periodically to see how they were doing.
After a while the water started looking grayer and grayer and two of the dumplings disappeared. They eventually all melted into the water leaving this very weird looking gray water with potato debris floating around. All the dumplings were gone!
So where did I go wrong? I reread the recipe and like a light bulb going off in my head I realized where I made my mistake. When I mashed the potatoes I prepared them like I would if I were making mashed potatoes for dinner. I had added milk and butter to the potatoes.
Okay, so back to the grocery store to buy more potatoes. This time I followed the recipe exactly as written and they turned out so much better. I noticed as I was rolling the potatoes that the mixture was dryer than my first try. Once the potato balls were rolled in flour I placed two at a time into the boiling water mindful of keeping a rolling boil.
I was amazed at the length of time it took to cook the poutines. They have to be simmered for two to three hours. Now after my first experience this might as well have been an eternity. But no worries this time they turned out perfect.
I was so glad that part of the instructions for making the poutines mentioned, “Although the grayish color and gluey texture of the poutines makes them appear somewhat unappetizing, their taste more than compensates for their unattractive appearance” otherwise I would have been worried when I removed them from the water. But with a little butter, salt and pepper they were delicious.
The ham was easy enough and turned out moist, flavorful and delicious. I loved the combination of cloves, brown sugar, mustard and vinegar used to flavor the ham. The aroma of the cloves filled my kitchen, wonderful.
The baked apples were another story altogether. I have never used phyllo dough before and found it very intimidating. Preparing the apples was easy enough but working with the phyllo turned out to be challenging to say the least.
I had forgotten one of the tips I had heard one day watching the Barefoot Contessa making baklava using phyllo dough. When she prepared to use the phyllo she first dampened some paper towels and placed the dough on the towels to keep it moistened. So, my sheets started to dry much too quickly making it difficult to spread the melted butter.
Then I had to wrap the dough around the apples. Sounds simple doesn’t it, not! The end result was really delicious baked apples but definitely not pretty. I used Golden Delicious apples and wished I had chosen smaller apples. I believe a small apple would have been easier to wrap in the phyllo and I would have peeled the apples. The cranberry sauce filling melted into the apples adding another layer of flavor. There were two choices of sauces I chose Crème Anglaise.
We wound up having an impromptu dinner party with out neighbors and they enjoyed the dinner immensely. We all added butter, salt and pepper to the poutines which added flavor and moisture to the dumplings making them very good and a nice compliment to the baked ham. I added green beans and pineapple chunks to finish off the dinner. Of course we had a wonderful, very light red wine to top it all off.
Good food, good wine, good friends and good conversation now that is a good end to a very crazy cooking experience.
Thank you Andréa for sharing your country’s favorite recipes. I look forward to making other recipes from the website you sent along and when I do I will blog about them.