How about a walk on the Canadian side. Pâté chinois is a French Canadian dish similar to English Cottage Pie, Shepherds Pie or the French hachis Parmentier.
Now you're thinking, how can a cowboy boot owning, died in the wool gal from the West learn about Pâté chinois? Well, somewhere between grad school, jet pilot training and living out of a canvas tote bag with squirrel chow in it, too young to know better, I got married. First guy, not that guy. We probably all have such memories of relationships like that. Brief, bittersweet, absolutely unforgettable.
He was born and raised in Montreal, a Canadian pilot who'd moved West and became a U.S. citizen. When we went back to the far Northeast to visit his parents I learned, watching my wonderful Mom in Law, how to make various regional dishes (sthough he actually was Australian by birth). She never used a recipe. I rarely do either, though I try and remember the amounts so I can pass on the instructions to you.
I can also teach you some common French Canadian sayings (which I picked up with the cooking).
Va pèter dans le trèfle.
‘go fart in the clover’.
Il lui manque des bardeaux.
'He’s missing a few tiles'.
Reçu comme un chien dans un jeu de quilles.
'Welcome as a dog in a bowling alley.’
La rondelle ne roule pas pour lui.
'The puck isn’t going his way'.
Avoir mal aux cheveux
'To be so sodden with booze and hung-over on the morning after that you are having a ‘hair ache’.
Ah, but back to the intent of this post. DINNER!
Boil chunks of 5-6 peeled potatoes and mash with a little butter and milk Just regular mashed potatoes, make your favorite recipe but you're looking for enough to serve 4-6.
Then rescue your oven mitt from Cone-An the Labarian.
Next, chop and saute a large sweet onion in a little olive oil until just starting to soften and caramelize. Add in a pound and a half of ground meat and three to four roasted and chopped cloves of garlic (or about 1 full Tablespoon of the jarred minced garlic) and cook. I used ground sirloin as I was out of venison. If you are using cheap cuts of beef, drain off any large amounts of extra fat.
In the last few minutes of cooking, add in 2 pinches (roughly 1/4 teaspoon) of cinnamon (yes, cinnamon), the same amount of black pepper, a dash of white pepper (if you have it), and a few shakes of salt and one small squirt of Srirachi (or Ketchup for the meek). Heat on low/medium for a few minutes as it finishes cooking. Spread the meat in a deep casserole or a pan that's 13 x 9, or the next size smaller.
Then, spread over the top of the meat, about 3 cups of corn mixed together (I used 1 cup of creamed corn and 2 of regular corn). Spread on the meat. Cover with the mashed potatoes and sprinkle generously with Penzey's Hungarian Paprika. Bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes, until bubbly.
I'm not sure how the name was coined as the French version of "Chinese pie", but one popular theory is that it was introduced to Chinese railway workers by Canadian cooks during the building of the North American railroads in the late 19th century. These cooks made it under instruction from the railway bosses (who were mostly of English descent) as ca heap and easy to make version version of the popular cottage pie with the sauce in the tinned creamed-corn serving as a substitute for the gravy.
click on pictures to enlarge, if you dare.
Allegedly, The French Canadian railway workers became fond of it and brought the recipe back with them to their home communities
However the name was derived, it's good. It's often served with ketchup on the side and maybe some pickled beets and a maple cookie. Or just plain.
Either way, it's comfort on a plate. And memories of the good kind of family, whether related by blood, marriage or simply a friend, people you actually like and admire.