Pâté chinois is a typical French Canadian meal… Apparently created by the 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 which included many French Canadians and many Chinese workers. The French brought it back home and called it: Chinese pate… which as nothing to do with China…
The “pate chinois” differs from the cottage pie, mainly because of the corn in the middle layer. Which was a cheap and easy ingredient to add, since Canada is full of it. In majority, this is the meal every household does once a month in the East part of Canada. It’s equivalent to tomato pasta for an Italian, or a baguette and cheese to a French, a ceviche to a peruvian… It’s “the” meal every French Canadians family does every other week.
Since living in Spain, I’ve had to add a spanish touch to everything I cook, so instead of doing the typical butter in the mashed potatoes, I’ve used olive oil. Also I’ve added garlic, onions, tomato paste and carrots to the meat and last but not least; fresh thyme. Surprisingly, this meal does already have a layer of paprika (pimenton) on top of it, I used for this one a special smoked paprika called “Pimenton de la Vera”, which is kind of the caviar of spices in Spain. A slight smoky flavour to this pie goes a long way.
So let’s make some eastern canadian meal with a touch of sunny Spain!
A drunken onion soup, filled with flavors, thyme, wine and a final touch of brandy to warm us up on a cold winter day. Finishing it up under the grill to melt that tasty gruyere cheese on the crunchy piece of bread slowly getting soak with the soup.
To warm up our hearts before the heat comes, why not eat a tasty, french onion soup. Those are quite popular from where I’m from; Quebec… As one know, that place has an eternal winter and this soup helps them to keep warm. I find it always a bit tricky to eat those heavy soups as an appetizer, with the extra cheese on top… It’ s supposed to be a appetizer but I consider it more of a main meal. The french use quite a lot of butter in it, this version is lighter in butter. Also, in culinary school in Spain they made it slightly different, they add thyme and brandy, loved it. So my version here is a of mix from each places I encountered that delicious soup.
This soup dates from the Roman time, it comes from a long way back, the french version is quite famous but there is other versions throughout Europe and even Asia… with miso, etc. In my mind that soup must be extra dark, a nice dark brown and it needs to contain a lot of onions… clearly… but the most important part is the stock. In most “stock” meal, I believe the stock to be the key factor to a successful meal, so make your own stock and make it tasty! Also you can freeze some stock in ice cubes tray and keep those small amount of broth for future recipes. It’s always useful.
The difference between stock and broth… I usually use the word broth, but then again, on those chefs tv’s show they always use the word “stock” and finally Googled it: A broth is mainly made of meat parts, while the stock is mainly bone parts (meaning more tasty collagen). So… as my dad would say: “I’ll go to bed less stupid tonight” (french expression)
So here is my beef stock recipe for this soup, I made it with a flair of vietnamese “pho” style. Part one of the meal; the stock.
1 kg (2 pounds) of beef bones
1 cheap cut like hooves, knuckles
1 onion sliced
2 carrots sliced
30ml brandy *optional
4 anise stars
1 cinnamon stick
small piece of fresh ginger with the skin (2-3cm)
Add the meat in cold water, bring to boil, drain and rinse in cold water again. *optional to clean the impurities of the broth first…
In your iron cast pot, add some olive oil, med-high heat, and brown the beef pieces
Add the spices, vegetables
Add the brandy, and scratch the bottom of the pan
Add water until topping the meat by 5cm (2inch)
Bring to simmer, leave on low fire for 4 hours
Pass through a sieve and voilà!
Makes 4 portions
1-1/2 litre of beef stock
250ml red wine
5 big, sliced, spanish onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp flour or in my case I used 2 tbsp unsugared chocolate to thicken the soup)
few thick slices of old bread *optional
50g grated cheese (gruyère) *optional
2 tbsp thyme
a good amount of pepper, salt
In a big pot, add olive oil and the sliced onions and salt, cook at low heat for about 45 minutes (yes that long), until the onion become translucent
Mid-way through the onions cooking time (step 1), add finely chopped garlic
When the onions are ready, add the flour (if you choose that alternative) mix (1 minute)
Add the stock, wine, spices and let simmer another 30 minutes
Heat up the grill from your oven
When the soup is ready, add the butter, brandy and chocolate (if you choose that alternative) to thicken the soup
Transfer the soup into onion soup bowl, add the bread on top plus the gruyere cheese, a touch of black pepper