Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Canadian Food Experience Project: My Version of Pate Chinois

This month as part of The Canadian Food Experience Project we're celebrating our most cherished Canadian recipe and this was a stretch for me because I have so many to choose from. So many memories and happy times involving everything from Saskatoon berry jam on toast at the lake, to my grandmother's creamy Hodge Podge each spring when the new vegetables came in; or my mom's Swiss chard right from the garden with butter and white vinegar, and the multitude of Canadian classic recipes I have made over the years from the Best of Bridge cookbooks.

But the more I thought about it, the more my heart and mind kept going back to Quebec; the province where I spent my young adulthood - and Montreal; the city of my very first apartment, my very first real job, and the place where I began to cook.

In life, everything we're about is each other. The moves we make, the jokes we tell, the words we write, the kindness we extend, and the meals we create; each have the opportunity to influence and inspire other people's lives - and though she probably has no idea, there is an unforgettable woman, now living in New Brunswick named Noella Cardin, who did that for me.

I lived with Noella and her family when I first came to Montreal as a part of a French language exchange program and from the first moment I met her I understood the importance food had in the ways she connected to friends and family. And it wasn't entirely about the food. Though her homemade cretons spread onto white bread or toast, creamy coquilles St Jaques, oven roasted chicken with a side of sauce for dipping, and french fried potatoes (to name a few of her wonderfully memorable recipes) were always delicious and prepared with love, it was the feeling of belonging and connection I got sitting around her table that I will always remember.

It helped me realize at an early age the importance of tradition, of breaking bread with the ones you love, and the significance of inviting others to your table. What might seem like an everyday meal for you, could mean the world to someone who is lonely, or hungry, or not quite sure of their place in the world. And if a comforting weekday dish is served with love, it might just be the recipe for an experience someone else will never, ever forget.

 At least, that's how it was for me.

Pate Chinois is is a French Canadian dish similar to English cottage pie or shepherd's pie. It is made from layered ground beef, canned corn, and mashed potatoes on top and it was one of those weekday dishes Noella served often and with love.

Over the year's I have adapted it into my favourite recipe for making the transition from the lazy hazy days of summer into fall. Noella's Pate Chinois had ketchup mixed into the ground beef and called for canned corn. As a way to celebrate my memories of Quebec and the changing of the seasons, my recipe adaptation includes roasting the last of the summer tomatoes...

And making home made cream corn.

The result is my most cherished Canadian recipe for celebrating the end of a season as we get ready for another Fall.

God bless you Noella, and thank you.

I hope you enjoy my easy to follow step by step video.

Visit the printable recipe here: Pate Chinois

  • 8-10 medium tomatoes
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and split in half
  • 1 1//2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 6 sprigs each fresh thyme and rosemary
  • 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup each diced zucchini, chopped onion, diced red pepper, and sliced button mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 4 ears fresh corn
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dried chilis
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 10-12 new potatoes
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  1. Cut the tomatoes in half and place on a baking tray with 2 large cloves of split peeled garlic. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt (I use my lemon herb salt blend), 1 tsp pepper, and 3 sprigs each of fresh thyme and rosemary. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to coat and then turn the tomatoes so that their fleshy side is facing down. Roast in a 350 oven for one hour stirring occasionally. 
  2. Saute the onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and red pepper in a large non stick skillet over medium high heat in 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil until the onions are soft and translucent and the mushrooms begin to release their water. Season with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. 
  3. De-glaze the pan with the white wine and let simmer, getting all that good flavour off the bottom of the pan until the alcohol has evaporated. Set aside. 
  4. Saute one pound of extra lean ground beef with a half tsp each salt and pepper and a tbsp of garlic powder. When the ground beef is browned and cooked through, add the reserved vegetables back to the pan and stir to bring them all together. 
  5. When the tomatoes have roasted one hour, lightly mash them in the pan and then add them to the beef and vegetables.
  6. Remove the kernels from four ears of fresh corn using a knife and cutting downward.
  7. Saute for 7 minutes in 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat stirring well. Add a tbsp of all purpose flour and continue to saute a minute or two to cook any rawness out of the flour. Add the remaining fresh thyme and rosemary and then pour in a cup of milk. Stir, bring to the boil, and then cook for an additional 3- 5 minutes until the sauce thickens.
  8. Add the corn to the roasted tomato and beef mixture and stir well so that everything comes together and then add the dried chilis.
  9. Pour into a 9 x 13 oiled baking dish.
  10. Boil 10-12 new potatoes in their skins until tender. Pour a half cup of warm milk, a tbsp of butter, and a quarter cup of parmesan cheese over all and mash until it all comes together. 
  11. Spread evenly over the ground beef and vegetables and bake in a 350 oven for another hour until bubbly and golden.



Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

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  1. I first remember trying pate chez moi when I lived in Calgary. My good friend introduced it to me as a dish from his childhood. I still make it today with creamed corn as the base.

  2. This looks decadently good. I must try this recipe - thank you for sharing it.

  3. What a beautiful story, yet I do not understand the French name as the translation is literally Chinese Pate. I have read before that this is a traditional food, but had no idea what Chinese Pate was to a French Canadian, until now. Do you have any origin information? I will look. I assume you are bilingual... I am not. Even though I took French all of my life... cannot speak it or read it well enough to find out.
    So, will definitely be making this recipe... and my list is huge as I haven't been cooking since dad's been in the hospital. Vanja left on "our trip" to Europe to see his parents on Tuesday - dad is getting better - PHEW - so soon, I hope, I can start my life again... cooking, writing, reading - and maybe even other things!

  4. Your video is incredible, as well. I can taste it. OH MY!