A traditional family dinner that is part of every French Canadian table is the famous ‘paté chinois.’ A three-layered pie of ground meat followed by corn and topped with mashed potatoes. This version has a Spanish flair with extra paprika, garlic, and thyme.
Paté Chinois / French Canadian Shepherd’s pie is a typically French Canadian meal… Created by British railroad workers, in the 19th century, as an imitation of the famous “cottage pie” (beef, lamb and mashed potatoes). The dish was an imminent “hit,” at least, for the “on-site” railroad workers, including many French Canadians and Chinese workers. The French brought it back home and called it: Chinese paté… which has nothing to do with China…
The “paté chinois” differs from the cottage pie or shepherd’s pie mainly because the corn layer in the middle was a cheap and easy ingredient. For the majority, this is the meal every household does once a month. It’s equivalent to pasta Pomodoro for an Italian, quiche for a French, and ceviche for a Peruvian. It’s “the” meal every French Canadian family does every other week. The kids love it, and usually, it’s served with extra mustard or ketchup.
A Spanish Touch
Since living in Spain, I couldn’t resist a bit of Spanish flair, so instead of doing the typical butter in the mashed potatoes, I’ve used a lovely olive oil. Plus, I’ve added garlic, onions, tomato paste and carrots to the meat. Last but not least, fresh thyme! Surprisingly, this meal already has a layer of sweet paprika on top. I’ve used smoked paprika called “Pimenton de la Vera,” the caviar of spices in Spain, to make it extra Spanish.
Some people like to add an aged cheddar or parmesan topping to the mashed potatoes. This recipe typically uses ground beef, but mixed pork and beef could be used.
Other French Canadian Dishes
So let’s make some French Canadian meal with a touch of sunny Spain!
Paté Chinois / French Canadian Shepherd pie
- Pyrex or Casserole of 30cm
- 6 potato (medium sized)
- 200 ml warm milk
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika (or sweet paprika)
- salt and pepper
- 400 g ground beef
- 200 g tomato paste
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 1 carrot (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
- 400 g corn kernels (canned (mix half/half with creamed corn can if possible))
- Cook peeled potatoes for about 20 minutes in a pot of boiling water.
- Mash them with warm milk, olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Add the meat, onion and carrot with olive oil to a large pan, and cook at medium-high heat until the meat isn't pink anymore.
- Add the garlic, thyme and tomato paste.
- Add the meat to the bottom of an oven-proof container Pyrex or casserole (about 20cm diameter x 5cm high).
- Add the corn layer.
- Add the mashed potato layer with the help of a spatula.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Cook for 30-35 minutes at 200°C (375F°) until golden on top.
- Sprinkle the paprika and let it cool 5 minutes before serving.
Enjoy a cold day with some nicely spiced Bloody Mary!