Chile’s location and fertile climate allow for prosperous agriculture. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the native Amerindians used choclo (the seminomadic Mapuche tribe’s word for corn) in many of their dishes. The Spanish then introduced new crops, including olives, walnuts, rice, sugar, garlic, and a variety of spices. The variety of these additional ingredients enhanced the local cuisine.
Every nation has one comfort food that people associate with their childhood. For Chileans, it’s pastel de choclo, or “corn pie.” This traditional dish is similar to what Americans recognize as casserole and could be considered a distant relative of Ireland’s shepherd’s pie. It is the perfect dish for a family gathering, since the preparation can involve family members of all ages. Typically served in the summer when corn is harvested, younger members can assist by shucking the corn.
Unlike the sweet yellow and white kernel corn you find here in the U.S., their local variety has shorter and wider kernels and creates a creamy yet starchy dough. (Corn from your local farmer’s market will work just fine.) Between the layers of dough, you’ll find layers of pino (savory ground beef), shredded chicken, onion, salty black olives, sweet raisins, and creamy hard boiled eggs. Sugar is sprinkled on top and caramelized, adding a delicious crunch to the crust. It’s this unique combination of sweet and savory that makes the dish so popular, and a beloved staple of Chilean cuisine.
Pastel De ChocloIngredients
3 to 4 medium onions, chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
3 cups corn kernels (preferably fresh but frozen works)
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped black olives
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup shredded roasted chicken
- Sauté the onions in the vegetable oil until soft and translucent, 5 minutes.
- Add the ground beef, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the beef is crumbled and browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Place the corn kernels in a food processor or blender with 1/4 cup milk. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, until the corn is blended and appears creamy.
- Melt 1/4 cup of butter in a large saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon salt, sugar, and the blended corn mixture. Add the remaining 3/4 cup milk and simmer, constantly stirring, until the mixture thickens about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped fresh basil.
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Drain the liquid from the browned beef mixture. Place the ground beef mixture in the bottom of a 3 to 4-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the raisins, olives, and hardboiled eggs over the beef, then layer the chicken on top.
- Spread the corn mixture over the top of the casserole so that it covers the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle the powdered sugar on top.
- Bake the casserole in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, until the filling is bubbling hot and the corn mixture is golden brown. Serve warm.
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