Pastel de Choclo, directly translated means “corn pie,” but is more of a layered corn and beef casserole than a pie in the traditional American sense. Pastel de Choclo was the final piece of the Chilean meal that I cooked with Ms. M. Chilean cuisine is a product of the commingling of the native Indian tradition with Spanish colonial contribution, combining their customs, foods, and culinary habits. When Chile declared independence from Spain in 1810, other European immigrants began to make their mark on the cuisine as well. This mix of native and European influences is now known as cocina criolla Chilean, or “Chilean Creole cuisine.” Pastel de Choclo is an example of this cuisine, combining corn, a native product, with a European influenced meat filling.
Pastel de Choclo is made up of a beef and onion filling, known as pino, sandwiched between layers of a blended corn mixture. Slices of hard boiled egg, olives, and raisins are laid on top of the beef and onion filling before adding the final corn layer. One of the things that makes this dish especially unique is that the top is lightly sprinkled with sugar before going into the oven, which caramelizes during cooking.
The word choclo is the Mapuche (a seminomadic tribe from the center of Chile that was never conquered by the Spaniards) word for corn. The corn used for this dish in Chile, however, is a lot different from the corn we see in our supermarkets here in the US. It is a short, fat, yellow corn that is very creamy when grated. To adjust for this, Ms. M uses canned cream corn in addition to fresh corn kernels to mimic the creamy consistency of the corn from her native Chile.
Pastel de Choclo is often served in individual portions in earthenware dishes, like these.
Ms. M told me that her family always ate Pastel de Choclo with ensalada de tomate. She loves topping hers with some fresh pebre. After experiencing this meal for myself, I can see why it’s such a favorite! The final dish is a wonderful mix of savory and sweet, and a wonderful way to prepare some of the delicious summer corn that is starting to show up in the markets.
Pastel de Choclo (Chilean Corn Pie)
Makes 12 servings
*Recipe Notes: Be sure to watch the pastel de choclo closely while broiling in the final step, as it goes from golden brown to burned quickly! This makes a fantastic freezer meal! Follow steps 1 through 4, then tightly cover the baking dish and freeze. When you are ready to cook the pastel de choclo, remove the dish from the freezer and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then cook as directed in step 5.
For the beef and onion filling:
1 pound ground beef
2 large onions, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon beef bouillon powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
For the corn topping:
40 ounces corn kernels (thawed, if frozen)
1 (14.75 ounce) can creamed corn
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons raisins, soaked in warm water
2 large hardboiled eggs, cut into thin slices
3 ounces black olives, sliced
Granulated sugar, to lightly sprinkle over the top
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 13×9-inch baking dish.
2. Make the beef and onion filling: Saute the ground beef and chopped onions in the 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. When the beef has all browned, add the garlic, 1 tablespoon beef bouillon powder, garlic salt, paprika, ground cumin, and oregano. Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through, then taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the onions are very soft, and no crunch remains, then remove the pan from the heat.
3. Make the corn topping: Put the corn kernels, creamed corn, and dried basil in a blender in batches and pulse until the corn is pureed, but not completely smooth. Pour the corn puree into a large pot and add the shortening, 1 1/2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder, and fine grain sea salt. Cook the corn mixture over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, continue letting it cook for 5 more minutes, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. After the five minutes, remove the pot from the heat.
4. Assemble the pastel de choclo: Cover the bottom of the greased baking dish with a thin layer of the corn topping. Spread all of the beef filling over the corn layer. Drain the raisins soaking in the warm water. Scatter the sliced hardboiled eggs, olives, and drained raisins over the meat filling. Finish by topping everything with the remaining corn topping. Use the tines of a fork to make grooves in the top of the corn topping, then sprinkle a light layer of granulated sugar over the top.
5. Bake the pastel de choclo: Bake the pastel de choclo in the preheated oven for 30 minutes to heat through (bubbles should be breaking the surface on the sides of the baking dish). Then change the oven to broil (high broil) and cook until the top of the pastel de choclo is golden brown. Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.