Thursday, April 17, 2014
Petit déjeuner seems like an insufficient description for French Acadian breakfasts when ployes and poutine are on the menu Each of these hearty recipes is deliciously robust and, therefore, they hardly seem to fit the description of “petit”. Rather, they’re more “grand” than petit, because the flavorful ingredients create generous serving portions. Both recipes are easy to prepare.
Ployes and poutine are mouthwatering breakfast and brunch entrées to consider serving at annual Franco-American New Year’s Day gatherings.
Ployes are pancakes made with buckwheat batter. They’re commonly enjoyed in the Madawaska regions of Maine and in Canada, but their popularity is growing.
Buckwheat batter is surprisingly light compared to traditional pancakes made with regular wheat flour. Moreover, they’re simple to prepare with a packaged mix requiring only the addition of water to create the batter. Cook them just like a pancake.
Additionally, ployes offer creative cooks the opportunity to be versatile because they can accompany a variety of sides or even create main dish recipes.
For example, while they’re on the grill, a slice of cheese can be added after flipping them so they can be rolled like a blintz. They’re terrific tasting as a substitute for bread. Yet, most people enjoy ploys served hot with butter and maple syrup. French Acadian families often have their own special buckwheat recipes for ployes, making the batter from scratch.
It’s possible the buckwheat ployes became popular with Acadians in Madawaska because the plants grow well in the absence of expensive nitrogen fertilizer. As a result, the buckwheat was once a nutritious staple, providing healthy non-wheat and inexpensive food to feed the large French Canadian families who once populated the farms in Northern Maine, Quebec and New Brunswick Canada.
Our son and daughter in law who live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore say ployes are “amazing pancakes”. They request a gift of ployes mixes whenever we visit. Many Maine grocery stores sell the mix, but it’s not readily available in other states.
Poutine is another delicious French Acadian recipe to include in the family’s Franco-American heritage cookbook. This recipe is easy to prepare and it provides for a complete meal when served with a side salad or fruit. Poutine is simply made by layering pan fried potatoes with gravy and cheese. Most recipes call for using cheese curd as a topping but our family spreads either a light cheddar or Monterey Jack over the gravy. Although this trio combination creates a rather high calorie meal, a sensible accommodation can reduce the fat content. Instead of pan frying, the potatoes can be baked, instead, while the gravy can be made from bouillon thickened with cornstarch (rather than with butter and flour) and reduced fat cheese can be added for topping. Frozen and precooked sliced potatoes that are baked in the oven make for a time saving short cut. Nevertheless, poutine purists will likely cringe at any fat reducing accommodation of the original recipe.
In a Nova Scotia restaurant we once visited, the poutine was prepared with lobster meat mixed into a white sauce that was spread over the potatoes, instead of ordinary gravy. We continue to drool over our recollections of the lobster poutine, although duplicating this delicious variation remains on my culinary “to do” list.
Franco-Americans can justifiably spread pride about creating the delicious poutine and ployes recipes, whether they’re serving le petit déjeuner, ou le déjeuner, ou le diner ou le souper.
Although they're largely regional recipes, both ployes and poutine are catching on in other regions outside of Northern New England and Canada.
More information about ployes and poutines can be found at these sites:
Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.
Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.