Pastel de Choclo…say what?

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe….I didn’t want this to be 100% cooking oriented blog.  I’m trying to achieve a balance between life and cooking that I hope keeps you the reader entertained!  So for your entertainment, I bring you a CHILEAN recipe…because you know, now that I am married to one I’m an excellent Chilean food cook ;-)!

Birthday Flan!

Birthday Flan!

A month ago, January 5th to be exact, Alan turned 40.  In honor of his birthday I made him two things: first per his request, his birthday cake was a flan de queso and second I made him Chilean comfort food Pastel de Choclo.  For those impaired in Chilean Spanish, Choclo is nothing more than maiz (corn).  This pretty much resembles a pastelón or shepherd’s pie, except instead of mashed potatoes its pureed sweet corn.  Trust me it sounds weird but if you like corn you will like this.  And if you are Cuban, or have ever tasted Frituras de Maiz (Corn Fritters) and liked them, then you will absolutely like this dish.

I must confess, it didn’t come out right the first time I attempted this….so in full disclosure the pictures of the prepping and the pictures of the final product might not match because I had to do it on a separate occasion.  I almost cried when I served Alan and saw that the maiz had not cuajado and was regado throughout the plate.  Alan really tried his best to comfort me but I’m just not good at having a recipe come out wrong.  The good thing for you, is that I finally calibrated a receta that works!

The ingredients (for two people):

  • Two cans of 15oz corn no salt added, drained.  You can use frozen corn, but it holds too much water
  • 3/4 to one full pound of ground beef
  • half a small onion – chopped
  • two garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 hard boiled egg – halved
  • one small chicken breast (or two chicken drumsticks)
  • Sugar
  • salt, pepper and cumin to taste

Season the beef with salt and pepper, then brown the ground beef in olive oil with chopped onion and minced garlic.  As it brown, add cumin to taste and stir. You should be able to taste a hint of cumin in the beef.  Make sure the beef doesn’t clump together.  Once the beef is cooked set aside and drain.  You can also add some raising to the beef.  I don’t because Alan doesn’t like them, so he only accepts them in picadillo.

Browning Ground Beef

Browning Ground Beef

Grab the two cans of corn and drain out all the water.  Puree them in your Osterizer.  It will take many tries, you’ll have to puree, stir, puree, stir.  Whatever you do, DO NOT ADD WATER.  You want the maiz to have the consistency of dry mashed potatoes.  If by chance anything happens and it is too watery, simmer it in a small saucepan for a while so it thickens a bit.  Another option is to add some powdered milk.  Or lastly, some more drained corn.

Pureed Corn

Pureed Corn

*Remember this is the one that was to liquid, so if yours looks pastier or thicker, don’t worry!

Note: if you have access to fresh corn, you can desgranar a mazorca and puree fresh niblets, which is the way it is supposed to be done.  However, you’ll have to reduce it a bit in a small saucepan, b/c it will be a bit watery.  This whether you cook the mazorca or not.

But what about the chicken?  Ahhhh the chicken….boil it.  Yup, you read right, boiled.  I know it sounds disgusting, but just think like you were making chicken soup.  I skin the drumstick or the breast (boneless) and boil it in about a cup of water with half an onion, garlic clove and some salt.  It should take about 10-15 minutes not much more than that.

Chicken Breast

Chicken Breast

*Note: Here you see more chicken because I was also preparing Vaca Frita de Pollo or Chicken Vaca Frita (yes, yes, I will post that recipe too!)

If you use el muslo, it will be one per serving.  If you use the pechuga, then shred it manually and you’ll probably have some left over. Lastly you’ll need to cut the hardboiled egg in half (the long half, that is ;-)).

So, now what?  Ah!  now comes the easier part.  Grease a pyrex and pour in all the beef.  Make sure that the beef layer is at least 1″ thick.

Beef Bottom Layer

Beef Bottom Layer

Follow up by placing some of the chicken and one of the egg halves on each portion (side).

Beef, Chicken and Egg

Beef, Chicken and Egg

The evenly pour the pureed maiz on top of the beef, chicken and egg.  The maiz layer should be as thick as the beef layer.

With corn, ready to go in the oven!

With corn, ready to go in the oven!

Place in a preheated oven at 400 Farenheit for about 15-20 minutes.  When you see that the corn is starting to set, sprinkle some sugar on top and put back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes.  Then evenly sprinkle sugar on top, and place back in the oven on broil.  At this point, do not take your eyes off the pastel.  The purpose here is simply to dorar el azucar, get a golden color.  As son as it hits the color take out of the oven.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

Let the pastel rest (sit) for about 5 minutes; enough for the maiz to settle a bit and lose its steam.  That way it will be easier to cut into to serve.  This one in particular is two portions.  However, you could extend to three if you think the pieces are too big.  Pastel de Choclo is usually served with an ensalada de tomate (tomato salad) which is nothing more than tomatoes, onions, oil and salt.  But you can serve it with whatever you prefer!

A heaping serving!

A heaping serving!

Typically, Pastel de Choclo is cooked in ceramic bowls as individual portions so if you have those then you don’t have to worry too much about the corn setting.  If you have a sweet tooth, like Alan does, then you can also sprinkle some sugar on top.  Enjoy!

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