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Pastel de Choclo

Pastel de Choclo

One year ago, I spent a sunny afternoon cooking in my friend Susana’s back yard, with her mom and grandma. (OK, mostly they cooked, and I watched. And then ate.) Every year, one day late in the summer, they pick up cases of Taber corn and get together to make large quantities of pastel de choclo – Chilean corn-topped beef pies in the style of shepherd’s pie. They do it out in the backyard when it’s still sunny, giving them space to shuck dozens of cobs and cut off the kernels, which are then mulched in the food processor with sprigs of fresh basil. I don’t know why I never thought to do this – the result is this creamy-sweet pale yellow mixture, brightened with bits of basil, which I was perfectly happy to eat raw by the spoonful. If you haven’t taken a bite of a good cob of corn raw, try it! ‘Tis the season.

Pastel de choclo 5

Pastel de choclo is made with a base of pino, hard boiled eggs and olives, topped with the corn mixture. Susana’s mom Catalina is known for her pino – essentially the same mixture that’s used to make empanadas, although for empanadas Catalina makes hers with larger cuts of beef, roughly chopped, and a formula she keeps secret by preparing it late at night after everyone is asleep – for pastel de choclo it’s made with ground beef and merkén– a spice blend with a smoked chili base, lots of garlic, and Catalina quickly boils the onions first, which she says makes them easier to digest and eliminates heartburn.

Pastel de choclo 7

I loved how neatly Susana’s grandma, Lela, sliced around the base of each cob before pulling off the husks and silk, leaving a neat little pale green cap at the bottom.

Pastel de choclo 6

They simmer the chicken thighs first with veggies and water, and make soup out of the resulting stock. Then they set out these lovely dark earthenware bowls they brought when they came to Canada from Chile and layer the ingredients in each – pino, chicken, eggs and olives – then topping each bowl with the fresh corn-basil mulch, spreading it right to the edges and sprinkling the top with a bit of sugar to help it brown. They’re then baked until bubbly, the corn lids tender and caramelized, trapping all the moisture from the meat layers underneath, and then served as so many dishes are – with a quick salad of fresh tomatoes, purple onion and cilantro, dressed with olive oil and salt. Tomatoes just happen to be at their best right now, too.

Pastel de Choclo 3Pastel de choclo 4

One of the best things about going to Susana’s is that there’s always so much family around – when they make pastel de choclo, they make enough to feed the extended family and send everyone home with more for the week – I came up with this recipe for a more regular family-sized portion by watching and taking notes, so don’t feel like you have to adhere too strictly to the quantities. And by all means, invite your people over and make enough for everyone to eat, then take some home for early fall dinners.

Pastel de Choclo
Pastel de Choclo

Pastel de Choclo

Recipe link

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September 4, 2017

Ingredients

canola or olive oil, for cooking

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 Tbsp. merkén, or substitute 2 tsp. smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp. coriander and 1/2 tsp. cumin

salt

3-4 cobs of corn

4-6 fresh basil leaves

6 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs, cooked

3 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and halved lengthwise

6-8 whole black olives (pitted)

sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

1Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon, until it’s no longer pink. Meanwhile, boil the onion in a small pot of water for a few minutes, then drain and add to the meat along with the garlic and merkén. Cook, seasoning with salt, until the meat is browned and excess moisture has cooked off.

2

3Slice the kernels off the cobs of corn and place in the bowl of a food processor with the fresh basil. Pulse until well blended, but not completely smooth. To assemble, spread the meat mixture into the bottom of a casserole dish or individual oven-safe baking dishes and top with chicken, eggs and olives. Spread the corn mixture over each, right to the edge of the baking dish, and sprinkle evenly with sugar.

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5Bake until the top is golden and the pies are heated through and bubbly around the edges. Serves 6.

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5 comments on “Pastel de Choclo

  1. Vivian
    September 5, 2017 at 8:39 am

    What an intriguing recipe adventure. Your version serves six…what is the serving size, ie. the volume of the bowls used? Can the pre-mad bowls be frozen or after cooking for later re-heating? Neat that they have handles. That method of getting the kernels off the corn by cutting a base is genius. No more trying to balance the cob as I slice downward! Thanks Grandma!

    Taber corn really is deluxe compared to the dried, pawed-over stuff in most big box grocers. One thing I have noticed though, not every bag is just one variety…like Peaches and Cream mixed in with Krispy King….or maybe that was just my vendor not keeping track. He was very accommodating and quickly comped me for the half dozen mixed up. But now my freezer is bulging with CORN! A true sign of fall!

  2. Vivian
    September 5, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Oops! “pre-mad”…pre-made of course, Freudian slip I guess! But “mad” is what I am going with all the corn that needs to find a niche in my freezer.

  3. stacey snacks
    September 5, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Julie,
    When do you add the chicken thighs? in w/ the beef?
    Thanks, Stacey

  4. Chapli Kabab Recipe
    September 11, 2017 at 5:37 am

    This one is my favorite dish I just made it & enjoy with my family. I loved your website and your way of cooking. Before this, i made Chapli Kabab Recipe from ( https://www.sooperchef.pk/chapli-kabab-recipe/ ).Its taste also awesome.
    Vidoe tutorial also available here.

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