17 October 2009

Getting Back to My Canadian Roots with a Recipe for Pate Chinois

Pate Chinois
Throughout the years I have lived and worked in numerous provinces throughout Canada from the small fishing villages of Newfoundland, to the rolling foothills of Alberta. I grew up in an urban centre very close to the Greater Toronto Area in what is referred to as Mennonite country in the province of Ontario with it's rolling hills, orchards and farmland. This is where my passion for food and the "foodie" culture began to reach fever pitch. I now live and work in the Okanagan Valley in the interior of British Columbia framed by picture-postcard views of lakes and mountains and a cluster of outstanding wineries, countless orchards and seasonal farm stands, restaurants and artisan-food producers. They all take full advantage of our areas natural abundance and is very similar to where I grew up in Ontario. It is easy to see why Canadians are passionate about their food and what we consume.
Canada is a huge melting pot for different cultures and nationalities. The country is approximately 5,000 km from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean's with each of the provinces and territories diverse in their history. It is hard to define what is truly Canadian and what we have adopted from other cultures and nationalities. One thing I do know is that we have such an abundance of fresh produce and other natural resources that we make good use of what we have. Each province is unique in what would be considered their traditional dishes depending on the nationality of who settled there as well as what is available locally!! Canadians are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of eating locally produced food in all our provinces for many reasons. It tastes better, it supports the community, and, because it doesn’t need to be shipped long distances, it’s better for the environment.

I have spent periods of time in "La Belle Provence" Quebec which has it's own unique history and culture to share based on it's deep French roots. Stretching between the Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Quebec is Canada’s largest and the second most populated province. Fiercely independent, Quebec is the only Canadian province with a majority of French-Canadian residents. What I love about Quebec and it's city and rural areas is its French flavour which still remains through it's food, history and culture. French food traditions abound in their rustic country breads, tourtiere (meat pie) , cretons, artisan cheeses (like Oka, made by Trappist monks), and foie gras. Soupe aux pois (yellow pea soup) with salt pork is a national French-Canadian dish. Feves au Lard (Quebec Baked Beans) are often cooked with maple syrup.

"Poutine" is a yummy concoction and a favourite snack food of mine consisting of french fries, hot brown gravy and fresh cheese curds that's as unhealthy as it is delicious. You can find it in all-night take-out joints and gourmet restaurants alike since it is highly addictive and comes with a variety of toppings from tomato sauce (poutine Italien) to fois gras. I am thinking it should replace Soupe aux Pois as our national dish!!!!! "Tarte au Sucre" or Sugar pie is as sweet as it sounds, made with a variety of sugars and maple syrup, boiled to a fudge and made into a pie. The province of Quebec produces more maple syrup than any other Canadian province!!!! And don't forget Montreal-Smoked Meat which is similar to pastrami for your sandwiches and Montreal bagels baked in wood-fired ovens and a personal favourite.

When the weather starts to get cooler I have a need to start nesting and part of this process is to rediscover my Canadian roots through food. There is something comforting and ethereal about getting back to your roots. This reminded me of Pâté Chinois (Chinese Pie) which is a French Canadian dish similar to English cottage pie, shepherd's pie or French hachis Parmentier. It is a traditional French Canadian main course, and is often served during the cold months of the year here in the Great White North. It is typically served with pickled beets or eggs. It is made from ground beef which is sometimes mixed with sautéed diced onions on the bottom layer, canned corn (either whole-kernel, creamed, or a mixture) for the middle layer, and mashed potatoes on top. Variations may include sprinkling paprika on top of the potatoes, reversing the layering of ingredients, adding diced bell peppers to the ground beef, and serving the dish with pickled eggs or beets. I first tried this dish in Alberta when one of my room mates was French Canadian although he referred to the dish as "Pate Chez Mois" or "Pate of my house".

Pâté Chinois is not a Chinese recipe as the name implies. One possible explanation for the 'Chinese' reference is that it was introduced to French Canadian railway workers by Chinese cooks during the building of the North American railroads in the late 19th century. These cooks made it under instruction from the railway bosses (of English extraction) as an easily-prepared, inexpensive version of the popular cottage pie, with the sauce in the tinned creamed-corn serving as a substitute for the gravy. The French Canadian railway workers became fond of it and brought the recipe back with them to their home communities. From there it was brought to the textile mill communities of Maine New Hampshire, Massachusetts,and Rhode Island where many French Canadians immigrated to work in the mills during the early 20th century.

Become an honourary Canadian and give this recipe a try or rediscover your own roots!!!

**Pate Chinois (Chinese Pie)**

8 medium fresh whole white potatoes
1 garlic clove whole
1 lb ground beef
1 - 2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow or Spanish onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, finely diced1 large carrot, finely diced
1 (15oz) can creamed sweet corn with sauce
grainy mustard to taste
Worcestershire sauce (a few shakes)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Sliced Pickled Beets, chilled

Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until soft, drain. Mash potatoes, adding 2 tablespoons butter, Parmesan cheese and just enough buttermilk to achieve a spreadable consistency. Set aside.

Over medium heat in saute pan cook onion, carrot, bell pepper, and celery in butter approximately 5 minutes. Add beef to pan and fry until no longer pink. Add salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Cover and cook on low heat for about 30min. Drain fat and put ground beef mixture in bottom of casserole dish.

Top meat mixture with creamed corn and spread evenly over beef.

Spread the mashed potatoes across the top to form a 'crust'. Lightly sprinkle with paprika, and salt/pepper to taste, and make tracks with a fork, if desired.

Bake uncovered at 400F until the potatoes are golden brown, approximately 25 minutes.

Serve hot with a generous portion of sliced chilled pickled beets.

Notes: shredded sharp cheddar cheese can be added on top of potatoes before cooking.

You may also want to try:

Leftover Turkey Shepherd's Pie
Upside Down Shepherds Pie

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Classic Canadian dish. My husband loves to make this dish. I like the use of buttermilk in yours, I will have to mention it to him.

  2. a wonderfully hearty Canadian speciality! Delicious and so comforting!



  3. What lovely and nice dish Vall! Look amazing and tasty!!
    Thanks by your support my dear, Im better! xoxoxox gloria

  4. Canada is indeed a rich and diverse country. Your pride is quite evident. Pate Chinois sounds so much better than Shepherd's Pie.

  5. This look delicious. I enjoy English/Irish Shepards Pie and this looks like an interesting variation.
    Thanks for the pumkin brulee dessert recipe in an earlier post --I'm making that for out Thansgiving.

  6. I read this post over and over. I love learning about different countries and customs. Even though I live in the US, I've only been to Canada once. I thoroughly loved it. We went to the Canadian Rockies, and I fell in love with it. Reading your post makes me want to pack my bags and head back up there for a culinary tour.

    This recipe kind of reminds me of cousin to shepherds pie. It sounds and looks wonderful. That photo is amazing.

  7. wow. i have exactly zero canadian ancestry and i've never bemoaned that fact more than i am right now. what an awesome dish! perfectly hearty and delicious--thanks for sharing this!

  8. Thanks for sharing some info on Canadian food culture Val...a great read! This dish sounds and looks very interesting!

  9. I had never heard of Pate Chinois- but have loved Shepherd's Pie forever. (Think Pate Chinois is a much classier name for a similar dish!) I spent a lot of time in Canada when I was younger- and I know why you love it so.

  10. I think it's very cool that you've gotten to experience such a variety of provinces and experiences.

  11. chinese pie - the origin of the name really make a food story in itself! i love little tidbits of history like this one!

  12. In Québec we all have a different recipe for pâté chinois. It's a classic and on the menu almost every week in families. It's a meal that everyone like. I have been making mine with lentils recently and meat for my sons. It's comfort food for us. Love the one you made, I would gladly share it with you :)

  13. This dish certainly looks incredible. Thanks for sharing with us! Also thanks for stopping by my blog back in August and I'm sorry for returning the visit so late. I'll be back and also start to follow you! Roz (aka bella)

  14. I'm saving this to try sometime.

  15. I love the foodie melting pot & cultural influences on cuisine. This couldn't be a better example. So much flavour. It's gorgeous!

  16. Huh. I have never heard it called pate chinois before.
    Looks tasty!

  17. You get some serious *hearts* and props for calling it Paté Chinois!!! I grew up on this stuff man, it used to be my favourite, all mixed together with way too much ketchup!! Yum to the yum yum!!

  18. Thanks for that tour of Canada! I've only had the pleasure of visiting Canada once in my life (3 days on a business trip to Calgqary) and need to explore more of my northern neighbor!

    I'm glad you gave the explanation of the name. I was thinking as I read the description, "Why do they call it CHINESE?" Interesting explanation.

    I live this better than shepherd's pie because it has no peas!

  19. I never got the chance to go to Quebec with my grade 8 class. My parents were typical Italian and they wouldn't allow me to go for the week ... or anywhere for that matter. LOL

    The Pate Chinois sounds yummy and it looks scrumptious in the photo.

  20. The plate looks so appetizing! great canadian classic:)

    btw, it'd be great if you could find some time to sned in something for my sweet celebration recipe contest running on my blog:)

  21. Just making this makes me an honorary Canadian? Awesome! Great Canadian info!

  22. Interesting dish. I love the history. Come to think of it I guess that is what fall brings home, a sense of nesting and an interest in our roots. That would explain some things...

  23. lovely to learn a little more about you, about Canada and this lovely Canadian Dish! Thanks for sharing!

  24. This was a good read Val,so much info on Canada.This dish is new to me but looks super.

  25. It's amazing how much there is out there for one to learn. I have never heard of this dish before Val and it looks and sounds delicious. I would love to visit Canada some day as I never have (so close, yet so far!).

  26. I enjoyed reading about Canada and your roots. This dish reminds me of the shepherd's pie I have on my blog right now. Maybe one day, I'll get to visit Canada. I know I would love it there.

  27. Serendipity! I just made Pate Chinois for dinner last night. It's my own recipe (which I will eventually get up on my blog, honest!) and I had never seen a recipe online for it before. Neat :D I'm so glad I dropped by here to visit!

  28. Oh Yum, a fine example of the Quebecois comfort food. Visiting Quebec always means good food!


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