Pastel De Choclo or pastel de maiz, a pie popularly eaten in Argentina, Peru and Chile, is prepared by simmering beef, onions, chicken, olive, boiled egg and other ingredients in a earthenware dish called paila and then baking it with a dough topping of ground corn, creamed corn or choclo.
The exact history of the dish is unknown but there are several interesting legends surrounding the origin of the dish.
- According to Chilean anthropologists, the dish could have originated in the kitchens of the Spanish conquerors who invaded South America. They hired local Mapuche or tribal cooks who adapted the Spanish meat filling used in Spanish empanadas with corn dough that was used to make humitas. Humitas were the traditional tamales prepared in the local Andean regions. The combination of meat and corn dough resulted in a pie that could be consumed by the Spanish invaders and which reminded them a little of home.
- Another legend states that Inéz Suárez who was the mistress and companion of Pedro de Valdivia’s during the conquest of Chile created the dish in 1539 by combining empanadas with corn dough. Pedro de Valdivia was a Spanish Conquistador who invaded Chile and became the first royal governor of Chile. It is possible that his mistress created the dish to cater to his palate.
- The dish also has a very strong Peruvian and Argentinean history with a mention of pastel de choclo being made in 1608 as a dish at a Peruvian banquet.
The dish was popular in the lower classes in Chile till the late 19th century but it became popular in the 20th century due to common use in the lower class. This led to the upper classes gradually adapting the dish to make gourmet versions which made the dish quite popular.
Ingredients and preparation
The dish is prepared by sautéing the onions with ground beef, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin over low heat. The chicken is boiled and cut into pieces. Eggs are hardboiled and cut into rounds. In a large earthenware bowl or traditional paila, the chicken is layered with the beef mixture, olives, raisins, egg rounds. A thick puree of corn and milk is poured on top. Traditionally, field corn or cornmeal is preferred for the topping as it is high in starch. Powdered sugar is sprinkled on top of the dish. This is baked and served hot.
There are several modifications to the basic recipe like adding basil to the corn dough topping before baking it. Another simple variation calls for substituting the creamed corn with boiled mashed potatoes or yucca. This dish is referred to as Pastel de Papas or Pastel de Mandióca. Yucca toppings combined with egg and cheese on top of the traditional dish are very popular in Paraguay.
According to a popular survey carried out by a Chilean internet magazine, Pastel de choclo is considered to be the favorite home cooked meal of more than 21% of Chilean locals.