Monday, September 12, 2016

Weekend Eats - Taking it on the Chinois

The bumper sticker is from Penzey's spice store, a place I stop at, several  times of year.  On this visit, with my friends Og , Midwest Chick and Mr. B. in tow, Og spotted it and part of it was covered with a magazine on the counter so he thought it said "Love People.  Cook Them".  I remembered this story as I found the sticker unpacking the last of my stuff and thought I'd share with readers.

I prefer to cook FOR my friends, and am always trying out new foods on them.  But sometimes I just want, for what to me is "comfort food".

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 on these increasingly colder days.
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.  Something I learned to cook from a family member, as, there is a Montreal branch of the Range clan through marriage. I'd posted the recipe on the sidebar, and a quick link a while back, but not all of you may have seen it.

I can also teach you some common French Canadian sayings (which I picked up with the cooking and could be useful in both cooking AND in today's election)

Va pèter dans le trèfle.
‘go fart in the clover’.

Baise-moué l’ailKiss my garlic

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'.

Grosse Corvette, p’tite quéquette
‘big car, little uh. . . (euphemism here) 

Avoir mal aux cheveux
'To be so sodden with booze and hung-over on the morning after that you are having a ‘hair ache’.

J’ai vu neiger.
I’m not just off the boat.

Ah, but back to the intent of this post. DINNER!

Pâté chinois

I make this several times a year, especially when I have quite a bit of leftover mashed potatoes. It's a wonderful, easy meal for a wet, overcast day.

To make from scratch:  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.

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 a cheap and easy to make 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 by being a long time friend-- those people you just like and admire.


  1. Hi Brigid,

    I love the Penzeys bumper sticker but, for the life of me, I have this insatiable urge to add a period with a magic marker after the second word on the bottom line.


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  3. Any version of shepherds pie is obligated to be good!

    PS: don't forget chili as a home for some of the ground meats.


  4. My mom grew up in the Noranda Mines region in the 1930s, and this was for when your food budget was just clearing the shoals of monthly bills. She used black pepper, savory and ground clove, because she was often thinking about tourtière instead.
    If you needed to cut expenses closer to the quick, the next step down was 'pouding chômeur,' especially for the kids, because it's wickedly sweet. That one is probably translated as 'welfare pudding' (SNAP?) and is mostly flour and brown sugar. Nowadays it's made as a holiday a treat rather than a budget saver, and some current day recipes splurge with MAPLE SUGAR.

  5. > "Love People. Cook Them".

    Reminds me of one of the California classics. The Bear Valley ski area used to have a bumper sticker encouraging you to "Ski Bear." Occasionally someone with an X-Acto knife and an exacting sense of humor would transpose two letters. (Brrr! No thanks!)


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