This summer I was in Dawson City at the farmers’ market, scoping out the best produce the Klondike has to offer.
It was beet season and Grant Dowdell’s stall was there. His beets are world class, so I knew I wouldn’t leave empty-handed.
My friend and fellow chef Brian Phelan and I started talking about my plan to pickle some beets for the pantry, which got us thinking about cold weather, cranberry logistics and, eventually, Rappie pie.
We decided I would return late fall to pick cranberries, make Rappie pie and enjoy my pickled beets with the feast.
When I returned, I was surprised to find us trying to pick cranberries in almost three feet of snow. Slinging coffees and nursing major headaches, we picked with the midnight show songs from Diamond Tooth Gertie’s on constant repeat in our brains.
I felt like Golem from Lord of the Rings that day. We were on a mission. If either of us got cold, all we had to do was think of the Rappie pie percolating away at home to warm us up.
Rappie pie or “Patates râpées” literally means “grated potatoes”. It’s a historical Acadian dish loved all over the country, but mainly in the Clair, Yarmouth, Pubnico and Wedgeport areas of Nova Scotia.
Rappie pie is best enjoyed with good friends and family, anytime of the year.
Brian, being Acadian himself, knows the ropes when it comes to this epic casserole. We came up with this recipe by using the knowledge of Brian, his mother and me.
Measuring the amount of juice that comes out of the potatoes is a trick that goes back at least three generations.
Acadian Rappie Pie
(Serves 10 generously)
1 medium free range chicken or 2 rabbits, 2 grouse, 1 duck/1 rabbit, et cetera
4 lg onions, peeled and chopped (reserve one for broth)
15-lb bag of baker style potatoes
4 tbsp salted green onions (or substitute sliced regular green onions)
bacon fat or butter
1 large (7L) or 2 medium roasting pans
Ø Place the chicken and one onion (quartered) in a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken is tender and broth is tasty (takes up to three hours). Skim off any scum that surfaces during the cooking process.
Ø While chicken cooks, peel your spuds, placing them in a clean sink covered with water. Brian recommends “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen to get through this part.
Ø Heat a pan and add the bacon fat or butter, the chopped onions and salted green onions. Cook till golden (about 15-20 minutes) on medium-low heat. Reserve.
Ø If your chicken is not cooked by now, relax and use this time to clean up a little in the kitchen. Preheat your oven to 375F and place your roasting pan inside.
Ø Now it’s time for the dodgiest part. When chicken is tender, carefully remove the chicken from the pot into a large bowl. I have heard of people being seriously burnt by dropping the chicken back into the pot and being hit by a tidal wave of boiling broth!
Ø Do not dump broth down drain! Shred all the meat, discarding skin and bones.
Ø You should now have a pot of broth, a pan of cooked onions, a bowl of shredded chicken and a sink full of peeled potatoes.
Ø Measure your broth – you will need 13 cups. Add hot water or other stock to make up the amount needed. 13 cups is roughly the amount of juice you will squeeze from the potatoes.
From here on out everything happens pretty fast and you need to really move. Have ready a food processor with a fine grater, 1 large clean bowl, one medium bowl and a clean white tea towel or pillow case. Keep the broth simmering.
Ø Working in batches, start shredding potato through your food processor (or, painfully, use a box grater). Place grated potato in towel and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the potato, into the medium bowl.
Ø Discard juice. Place the squeezed potatoes in your large bowl. Add onions to potato, and add the broth a couple cups at a time, stirring to incorporate. Taste the mix and adjust the seasoning. It will need salt and pepper. The mix will be slightly wet and turning translucent.
Ø Pull hot pan out of the oven, brush with bacon fat and ladle in half of the potato mix. Add the shredded chicken in one even layer.
Ø Ladle the rest over the chicken and smooth the casserole.
Ø Place in oven and turn down to 300F and cook for 3-4 hours till pie has set slightly and crust is nice and golden.
Ø If needed, turn up to 375F for 30 minutes to brown more.
Serve with pickled beets, chow-chow and butter biscuits.
Jeffery Mickelson, a professional chef, wild food fanatic and “offal” good guy, shares his passion for cooking with What’s Up Yukon