This is one of the few deep-fried dishes I never fail to get. But since it's usually only once per year, my conscience is clean.
Fried clams are a speciality of the area. I know of half a dozen restaurants which serve them, including a fast-food chain. There are some in south-eastern New Brunswick and in Maine. They are nowhere else in the world, as far as I know. Please let me know in the comments below if you know of any outside this area. I'd love to visit others.
The best of all the restaurants my family and I tried is Fred's Restaurant in Cap Pele. It is consistently tops in my own experience, and in the one or two reviews I heard about. The original Fred sold the business many years ago and I don't know if the recipe was his invention or was perfected by one of his successors.
How do they prepare the fried clams?
They start with fresh clams. They are usually not local to the restaurant's area but are within a couple of hundred kilometres. Nova Scotia is a popular source. The clams are made ready for eating, meaning cleaned of any sand or grit, and shucked. I very rarely get a shell fragment in the clams and never any sand.
They then coat the clams in pancake batter, which may or may not be an insider secret. That's right, their excellent batter is nothing more than commercial pancake mix. Coating the clams is a messy process and involves mixing the clams into the batter using their hands.
From the batter, the clams go into the deep fryer, where they're cooked to perfection every time. The servers wouldn't tell us any secrets to this, similar to how double-frying is best for french fries.
Then from the deep-fryer to the table, a short a trip as possible. When eating deep-fried it's always best to be hot and fresh from the fryer.
|Homemade Onion Rings|
We get the homemade onion rings for a side. They are just what you expect, rings of onion with batter and deep fried. Mmmmmm, a deep-fried dish to accompany a deep-fried dish. The batter for the rings is different and probably contains some bread crumbs.
We are always a group of four or more and we all love clams, so we end up getting 3 or more platters of clams plus a side of rings. The technique we've hit on is to ask them to bring out the platters one at a time, 10 minutes apart. This way, we share each platter and it ensures a supply of fresh, hot clams for everyone.
This dish is more subtle than the fried clams.
Forget everything you know about the Canadian fast food speciality of poutine, the french fries and cheese curds and gravy that's popular in most of the larger cities. The chip wagons serve nice poutine but that's not what I'm talking about.
Poutine râpée, despite the similar name, is quite different than poutine. It's an Acadian dish and goes something like this.
They start with cooked pork. Sometimes salted, but the ones we get are not salted pork. The pork is wrapped in a mixture of potatoes. Part mashed potatoes and part raw grated potatoes. They are about 10 cm in diameter. The balls are boiled for a long time, perhaps an hour or more.
The balls are then served with a little of the cooking water, which now resembles a thin potato gravy. We put them in bowls, and top with fresh-ground black pepper and occasionally hot sauce.
They are a little bland but good. They're a delicious treat worth every bite. The pork looks a bit pink but it is cooked and safe to eat.
We get ours from a small store near Grand-Digue, and it's in the middle of nowhere. We take our own plastic container as we buy enough for everyone.
Next time you're in south-east New Brunswick be sure to seek out these regional dishes. You'll thank yourself.