Saturday, December 05, 2009

Pate Chinois (Canadian "Chinese" Cottage Pie)

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 1

I've always loved English Cottage Pie. Who doesn't love baked mashed potatoes on a bed of ground beef and vegetables? I've usually stuck with peas and carrots, so when I saw Miss.Adventure @Home's variation of pate Chinois with corn, I was intrigued with the French Chinese name.

According to Wikipedia, the French Canadian dish may have originated with Chinese cooks during building of the North American railroads in the late 19th century. The Chinese cooks probably made it for their English railway bosses, substituting creamed corn for the gravy in a shepherd's/cottage pie. French Canadian railway workers brought the recipe back home and it spread throughout Quebec and the Northeast U.S.

Another possible explanation for the origins gives credit to Lionel Guimont, a linguistics student at Laval University. Guimont met someone from Maine, who was visiting Canada, and referred to the dish as "China pie." "China pie" could have been a popular dish in lumber camps and mills kitchens in China and South China, two towns in Maine with a large population of Quebecois forestry workers. Workers returning to Quebec translated it into French as pate Chinois, instead of pate de China.

Either way, I find both explanations give an intriguing glimpse into how food and its name have been adapted from its origins.

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 2

Pate Chinois (Canadian "Chinese" Cottage Pie)
Inspired by Miss.Adventure @Home

For an 8x8-inch, or 9x6-inch pan, you'll need:
Mashed potatoes
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 15-oz can corn
1 15-oz can creamed corn
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Make mashed potatoes. About 4 potatoes should do it. If you don't know how to make mashed potatoes, then just follow my directions. Set aside.

Dice 1 onion.

In a pan on medium-high heat, saute the diced onions until golden. Add 1 lb ground beef, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp ground black pepper.

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 3

Put the beef and onion mixture into a deep 8x8-inch, or 6x9-inch pan.

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 4

Drain and add 1 can of corn. Then add 1 can of creamed corn on top.

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 5

Add the mashed potato layer on top.

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 6

Then, if you wish, take a fork and run swirls or lines through the mashed potatoes to make a pretty pattern.

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 7

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 8

The three layers of beef, corn, and potatoes.

Pate Chinois (Canadian Chinese Shepherd's Pie) 9

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Since the layers are already cooked, you only need to bake until the mashed potato layer is golden and slightly crispy on the edges.


Who else made Pate Chinois?
I first heard of this variation of cottage pie from Miss.Adventure @Home.

New recipes served this Thanksgiving:
Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)
Homemade Turkey Gravy
Pate Chinois (Canadian "Chinese" Cottage Pie)
Pumpkin Marbled Cheesecake
Triple-Deviled Eggs with Black Pepper, Paprika, and Sriracha
Turkey Liver Pate

1 year ago today, Regent West Restaurant (Wedding Banquet) - Santa Ana (Little Saigon).
2 years ago today, Bok Choy Kimchee (Korean Pickled Bok Choy).


  1. This looks so good! Almost like meat loaf but with softer, lighter texture :)

  2. We make this in my family, except we just use the plain corn, no creamed corn.

    Growing up, we probably had this at least twice a month, and it's still my daughter's favorite thing for me to make when she comes over for dinner.

  3. Oh, I thought Pate Chinois was just a shepherd's pie. I didn't know about the whole creamed corn thing. I love corn!

  4. Lila,
    It's the mashed potato topping that does it for me.

    I did both! I love corn.

    Haha. Evidently, introduce one new ingredient and it's another dish. :P

  5. My Dad used to make this for us frequently!! He grew up near Montreal and moved to the US to work in the steel mills in Ohio.

    I love this dish and plan to make some with my leftover mashed potatoes from Christmas Dinner.

  6. Valerie,
    That's a great anecdote. Gives backup to the origins of this dish that I found online.

  7. I grew up in Maine and remember my mother adding biscuits to the top and baking until the biscuits were cooked through. Yum! But talk about a carb overload!

  8. Jerryanne,
    Biscuits on top of the mashed potatoes? That's a carb overload for sure!


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