Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pâté Chinois - Shepherds Pie with a Northern Touch

If you are like me you probably have a collection of ground meat in the freezer, beef, veal, pork, venison. Moosellaneous? Easy to thaw and serve, but you can only do meatloaf so many times.

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!

Pâté chinois

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.


Barefeet In The Kitchen said...

This looks delicious!

Dori said...

I'm sure your's is delicious. Really. However, for me it's just one more casserole dish boarding school managed to ruin for me. Don't even get me started on their "mock lasagna"...made with three day old leftover spaghetti. Ew.

Lois Evensen said...

My, that looks good! How nice of Barkley to help. :)

The Donald said...

Thank goodness!

After reading Lagniappe's Lair
's post today, I was concerned the recipe was for Murphy's BBQ German Shepherds Pie!

Looks delicious.

Hat Trick said...

Great photo of Cone-An the Barbarian! Good to see he's feeling his playful self again even with the "cone of shame".

I'm with Dori on the subject of casserole dishes.

45er said...

My wife is Canadian, but from the Toronto area. I think I'll spring this one on her and she'll look at me like I'm nuts.

Mrs. S. said...

Looks yummy.

Glad to see Barkley up to some of his old tricks.

Have you ever tried making real pate? Made a batch one year with venison liver before the days of CWD. Hey, when you get a whole animal, what do you do with all the odd parts? - Look up recipes. When we had relatives over for Christmas, they couldn't stop eating the stuff on crackers and toast.

We soaked the liver in salt water in the fridge for a couple days first (Changed water 1-2 times a day). Then I used a standard chicken pate recipe from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook and bumped up the spices like pepper and mace 2 times the normal amount so that the spices would not be buried too deeply under the venison flavor. I used plenty of butter and onions to keep it from turning out too dry. It freezes well.

Morris said...

"Cone-An the Labarian"

Grooaan! (but I'm laughing my ass off)

..and that food is making my mouth water just looking at it)

Wv: 'wedges' - I kid you not. Can I have a wedge of that?

Cond0010 said...

This looks real good, Brigid. Simple and tasty looking.

What a gift that you choose to share such wonderful treasures with us!


Marty said...

Keep taking embarassing pics of Barkley and you may sit down at your loading bench one day and find your powder's wet...

But, you've inspired me to use some of my mooseburger from the freezer.

idahobob said...


That looks and reads so yummy, I'm going to have to give it a try this afternoon.

Thank yoooo, my dear!!


Deschain said...

A taste of home. I'm a Montrealer by birth myself, and pate chinois is still a staple at family gatherings. The puck doesn't roll his way...been awhile since I heard that. I don't suppose you're going to do a variation on that other staple, poutine?

(Incidentally, the name for that dish comes from the expression the cook made when a customer first ordered it: "Ca va etre un maudite poutine." which translates to 'That's gonna be a Goddamn mess.')

BobG said...

I usually have a few packages of ground lamb in the freezer; it should work well in something like that.

idahobob said...


It was wonderful, stupendous, gastronomically delightful!

Of course, I cheated, and used some elk burger that I dredged up from the freezer.

Finished the meal off with Strawberry/Rhubarb Pie, with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

I am STILL exercising that meal off! LOL!!

Again, thank you!


LB @ Bullets And Biscuits said...

oooo...this looks yummy. I think I know where to find some ground venison to try this out ;)

Chantal said...

J'ai grandi sur le pate chinois et toujour avec du Ketchup!! I still make it as an adult, great to feeds many on the cheap or 2 for a couple nights