South America’s answer to Scottish or Irish comfort food! This is what happens to your good ol’ Shepherd’s pie when it lands in the land of plenty of corn. This dish may have originated when the cuisine of invading conquistadors mingled with that of the native South American culture.
Compared to the European counterpart, potato gets tossed and in comes Choclo (an Andean variety of corn) and the seasoned meat gets a little twist. And shepherd’s pie evolved down south as Pastel De Choclo!!
Some days back Jason gifted me a Cazuela, a shallow terracotta casserole dish traditionally used in Spain and some South American countries. I found out later that Cazuela is also the name of a Chilean stew, which I am itching to make soon too. You will hear about that, YOU BET!
But there I was, very excited to get this beautiful terracotta cookware and thinking to try something new. I had been meaning to make Pastel de Choclo for some time, but kind of forgot about it until I saw my new dish. It’s so unique and so delicious. It comes all the way from the very end of South America… Chile!!
What is Pastel de Choclo?
It’s a Corn Pie stuffed with a meaty filling you would never imagine. They call this stuffing “pino” and it varies greatly from family to family. The most common pino is ground beef with some spices and onion.
Atop the pino is layered a variety of ingredients, then everything is topped with a thick layer of creamed corn seasoned with a hint of basil. Hmm… I know the ingredients are running in all different directions with their unusual combination of flavors. But believe me, they work so great together.
- Ground beef – Seasoned with onions, garlic, paprika, cumin and salt.
- Cooked chicken breast
- Hard boiled eggs
- Corn topping – Corn and cream seasoned with fresh basil.
All these things, in my beloved Cazuela, go in the oven to make the most perfect caramelized “corn pie” thingie you will ever see.
Preparing your ingredients
First, give a quick sauté to your onions and garlic. Add ground beef, cumin, paprika and salt. Cook until nicely browned.
Meanwhile, keep your eggs to boil. We need hard boiled eggs. When you assemble the dish, you have an option to slice, wedge or simply dice them.
We roasted the chicken, but you can boil it if you prefer. Or if you have some leftover rotisserie chicken that would work great too. Our verdict is that ingredient might not be necessary, as there are already so many other delicious flavors. It’s up to you, go for it if you want to be really authentic.
Then comes the corny part… just blend the corn kernels with cream (you can use milk if you are watching calories) and then cook this mixture in some butter for a few minutes until the corn starts developing a beautiful deep yellow corny color. At the end, season it with fresh basil.
Now, assemble and bake your casserole
You can just layer the meat and the other ingredients and top with creamed corn. As you can see from the pictures, we went a little crazy and played with our food. YES WE DO THAT SOMETIMES!
In any case, arrange the meat layer in a slightly greased dish followed by your boiled eggs, chicken, olives, raisins (in whichever order you choose) and top it with that beautiful yellow creamed corn, aka, Choclo.
Bake your casserole for about 30 minutes at 350°F. You will know when it’s getting ready as your home starts smelling of that delicious corny sweet smell.
I’m not kidding, I was in my bedroom feeding Noah his snack and could smell a beautiful aroma waffling in. I’m a corn person, I can easily eat two cobs at a time. So you can imagine my anticipation for this one.
Oh boy, it didn’t disappoint. When you cut your piece and see different things hidden inside that corny crust… one bite… you taste that perfect combination of sweet and savory. Yes, both of these are possible in one dish… Pastel de Choclo!!
What to serve with Pastel de Choclo
This is a pretty hearty and fulfilling meal on it’s own. I like the freshness of some raw veggies with it though. Sometimes just some sliced tomatoes or cucumbers to keep things simple.
You can store leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days. Either keep them in an airtight container or cover your casserole tightly with cling wrap. I have not found leftovers to freeze very well.
This is an excellent example a South American dish that has just the right amount of sweet and savory notes. No wonder it’s one of the most popular and traditional home style Chilean favorites.
Now it has found its way into my home and is here to stay for a long, long time. Don’t wait until you get one of those terracotta casserole dishes, your regular baking dish or even cast iron skillet would work perfectly fine.
Some households in Chile bake individual portions in smaller clay pots or dishes, so small baking bowls or ramekins would work perfectly. Plus, they would make your job so easy when it’s time to serve, just take it out of oven and straight to table!
Try it! this might very well become your unexpected staple and a great conversation dish for guests!! While you’re here, be sure to check out my roundup of the best corn recipes.
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Pastel de Choclo, on my Gypsy Plate… Enjoy!
- 1.5 lbs ground beef
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cup corn
- 3/4 cup cream
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp fresh basil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup olives
- 4 hard boiled eggs
- 1 cooked chicken breast (see note 1)
- 1 tsp sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil, then cook 10 minutes. Immerse in cool water. Chop or slice when cool.
- In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic in oil until onions become slightly translucent. Add ground beef, cumin, paprika and 1 tsp salt. Cook until nicely browned.
- Melt butter in pan or skillet. Blend corn and cream in blender or food processor. Add this mixture to pan and simmer for about 5 minutes. The mixture should turn a nice golden yellow. At the end, add basil leaves.
- Add meat mixture to greased baking pan. Layer eggs, olives, chicken and raisins, then add corn mixture to top. Sprinkle sugar on top.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. If desired, broil for up to 5 minutes at the end to brown the crust.
- Chicken can be baked or boiled. Or for a faster recipe, use pre-cooked chicken, such as rotisserie chicken. We decided that it would also be equally delicious without the chicken.
- Try making it in a cast iron skillet!
- It goes nice with some fresh veggies on the side, such as sliced tomatoes and/or cucumber.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 627Total Fat 36gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 257mgSodium 1053mgCarbohydrates 32gFiber 3gSugar 14gProtein 45g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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