Sunday, June 12

Pate' Chinois

I've collected what might now be called 'vintage' cookbooks for years. The simple recipes have always captivated me. Recently I was given an old journal of my Meme', my French-Canadian grandmother. Not only did she note every cent they spent for years, it's filled with handwritten recipes. Jackpot. She passed away when I was about 6 yrs old so my memories are foggy to say the least. This was just the connection I needed.

The first recipe I found in her journal was for Pate' Chinois or Chinese Pie. This was my comfort food growing up. Seeing her words scribbled in pencil, changing mid sentence from French to English was incredible.

My Mom would make this simple shepherds pie during our cold New York winters just as I now know her Mom must have done. Looking back, I understand is was a frugal way to feed a large family. To me it will always taste like home.

There is no definitive explanation for the name but the most commonly told story is that it was created by Chinese workers building the Canadian railway in the 1880's. I can only imagine that they found the simple ingredients very filling for the hard work they encountered daily.

I make it for my own family now, usually when I find myself with leftover mashed potatoes. If you will be using freshly made, I suggest you make them a little drier than normal and the creamed corn is a must!


1 lb ground beef (browned & drained with a little onion, salt & pepper)
4 cups mashed potatoes
2 cans creamed corn (must be creamed!)

In a 13x9 baking dish, layer ground beef, then creamed corn and top with mashed potatoes, that's it. I drag fork tines across the potatoes to make small peaks just like my Mom did. It adds a rustic touch and seems to brown up a little better but that's just me.

Bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees or until the top is lightly browned. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

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