ALBANY, Calif. - Every culture seems to have a dish that gathers the family around on Sunday afternoons to cook together. In Chile, that dish is pastel de choclo, a version of shepherd's pie made of corn and beef.
"It's a dish that invites the family to be around each other because you need a lot of hands to prepare pastel de choclo," says Miriam Valenzuela, head chef at Restaurant Valparaiso in Albany.
The dish is usually made in the summer, when corn is plentiful and the kids are on vacation and able to help out.
The base is a traditional beef filling used for empanadas in Chile. It is a mix of ground beef, onions, and spices. It is topped with a corn mixture. But in between the two layers, there are olives, hard-boiled eggs and pieces of chicken.
Valenzuela says pastel de choclo is usually served with a traditional Chilean salad, made of quartered fresh tomatoes, sliced onions, chopped cilantro and olive oil.
Chilean Pastel de Choclo (Corn & Beef Pie)
For the pino
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion (chopped)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
For the mashed corn
4 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped basil
6 whole black olives
1/2 lb roasted or boiled chicken (chop into small pieces)
3 hard-boiled eggs (quartered)
To make the pino, add oil to a large saucepan, saute the onion until it is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add in the ground beef, cumin, paprika, pepper and parsley. Cook until cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
The pino can be made up to a day ahead.
To make the mashed corn, place corn kernels in a food processor. Process until creamy. Melt butter and olive oil in a pan, add in corn mixture. Cook at a low temperature. Add salt, sugar and basil and continue stirring until the corn mixture thickens, about 8-10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
To assemble the dish, drain the liquid from the beef mixture and place it in the bottom of a large casserole dish, or several small oven-safe bowls. Top with olives, hard-boiled eggs and chopped chicken.
Spread corn mixture on top so it covers the ingredients and top it off to the brim of the dish. Sprinkle sugar on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until corn mixture is golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes and serve.