This beef* and corn (and the optional chicken) casserole is a very popular dish in Chile – possibly the national dish. Lots of different flavors (e.g. beef and onions, raisins, olives, roasted chicken) go into the body of the casserole and the whole thing is topped off with a thick layer of cooked/pureed corn**. Traditionally, the pastel is baked in a large earthenware dish called a paila or in several smaller bowls for individual servings.

*The meat filling for this recipe is called pino and is also used to fill the famous Chilean empanadas. Pino is a rich sweet and savory mixture of beef, onions, spices, a slice of egg, olives, and a sprinkle of sultanas (raisins).

Pastel de Choclo - Chilean side dish

Pastel de Choclo in a traditional clay vessel called a paila

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes (estimated)
Total Time: 55 minutes
Serves: 4-6
Bake at 375 F (180 C) for 30-40 mins
Read more about Chilean cooking, food and drink here

Ingredients:

Corn** 3 large ears of corn, grate the kernels
OR
Fresh or frozen corn — 1 pound plus
Cornmeal — 1/4 cup plus
Cornstarch — 1 or 2 tablespoons
OR

3 cups corn kernels (fresh, frozen or creamed corn)
Beef* 1 – 1.5 lb. or 500-750 gms. ground beef
Chicken (optional) 2 poached chicken breasts chopped into bite-sized pieces OR 1 cup shredded roasted chicken
Onions 3-4 medium onions, chopped
Olives 1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped black olives (traditional way is to keep them whole)
Eggs 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped (traditional way is to halve the eggs)
Raisins 1/2 cup raisins
Basil 2 Tbsps.-1/4 cup chopped basil
Cumin 2 tsp. cumin
Milk 1/4 – 1 cup whole milk (as needed)
Butter 1 Tbsp. – 1/4 cup butter (as needed)
Oil 1.5 – 3 Tbsps. vegetable oil
Salt & Pepper 2 tsp. salt PLUS 1/2 tsp ground pepper (or to taste)
Sugar (powdered) 1 – 3 Tbsps. sugar (confectioners’, icing or powdered)

Corn topping: Heat the grated corn, chopped basil, salt and butter in a large pot. Add the milk little by little, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Leave to one side while you prepare the meat filling.

Meat filling: Fry the onions in oil until transparent, add the ground meat and stir to brown. Season with salt, pepper and ground cumin.

Put it together: To prepare the pie use an oven-proof dish that you can take to the table. Spread over the bottom of the dish the onion-ground meat mixture. Arrange over this the hard boiled egg slices, olives and raisins. Put the chicken pieces on top (bone the chicken if you like). Cover the filling with the corn mixture. Sprinkle the icing (aka powdered or confectioners’) sugar over the top.

Bake and serve: Bake in a hot oven until the crust is golden brown. Serve at once.
375 F (180 C) for 30-40 mins

(Note on serving: In Chile, more sugar is served to sprinkle over the “pastel” as it is eaten. You also may want to serve with Ensalada Chilena***.)

** Choice of corn: If you choose to use creamed corn, it caramelizes in the oven and the result is a delicious salty/sweet combination that’s reminiscent of shepherd’s pie, but maybe better. This is great comfort food.

The authentic corn (choclo) used for this dish in South America is more mature and starchier than that found in the United States. That is why some recipes call for cornmeal and cornstarch. If you can find South American-style corn — called choclo desgranado and found in the frozen section of some Latin groceries — you can eliminate the cornmeal and cornstarch.

Variations:

  • After placing the beef mixture in the casserole dish, top with two poached chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces, and 2-3 sliced hard-boiled eggs. Then top with the corn puree.
  • Add 1/4 cup raisins and 1/4 cup chopped black olives to the simmering beef mixture.
  • Stir 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil into the corn puree topping.
  • Some Chileans add 1/4 cup or more sugar to the corn topping to make it quite sweet.
  • Set the finished casserole under a hot broiler (grill) for 1 or 2 minutes to brown it.

***Ensalada Chilena

4 cups finely sliced onion
4 cups finely sliced peeled tomatoes
1 tsp. salt & papper
3 tbsp. oil
lemon juice to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves

Put onions in a bowl. Cover with cold water and leave for an hour. Drain well. Mix with the tomatoes on a large platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour on oil and lemon juice. Mix and serve with chopped coriander.


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