a dish inspired by the author's travels to Chile: meat
casserole with a sweet corn crust.
look forward to Midwestern farm stand sweet corn season all
year long. I overbuy and we overeat it right off the cobs
for days in a row. Full up on buttered ears, I start to
think of other ways to savor the golden goodness.
corn on the cob takes more time and patience than simply
immersing the ears in boiling water, but the flavor pays
off. When grilling a dozen or more at a time, I soak
unshucked ears in buckets of salted water and then drain the
ears before piling them onto hot grills. The corn steams
gently in its husks, yielding tender kernels with a vaguely
grilling just a few ears, I like to artfully tie back the
leaves and expose the kernels to the direct heat of the
grill. A seasoning of olive oil, salt and pepper renders
them irresistible. In true melting pot American fashion, a
slather of Sriracha-spiked mayonnaise and sprinkle of fresh
cilantro turns the grilled corn into an international treat.
I also like to remove the grilled corn from the cobs and add
tomatoes, basil and the Sriracha mayo for a great summer
is also the time of year to make pastel de choclo, a South
American savory casserole with a sweet corn crust. My niece
introduced me to this rich and homey dish while pottery
shopping together in Pomaire, Chile. We’d spent a great
morning visiting Pablo Neruda’s home in Isla Negra and
were powerfully hungry. Nearly "hangry," she says.
Good thing, as this main-course casserole, reminiscent of
shepherd’s pie with a sweet corn crust instead of mashed
potatoes, proves mighty filling.
corn in South America is starchier and less sweet than our
Midwestern sweet corn. To compensate for the lack of
starchiness, I add a bit of cornmeal and cornstarch to the
batter. To make the dish sweeter (all the versions we
enjoyed in Chile sported corn toppings that were quite
sweet) add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the corn batter.
Sprinkling a little sugar over the top helps promote a
browned crust while baking.
version served at Los Naranjos, a restaurant in Pomaire,
features surprises tucked underneath the crust — whole
hard-cooked eggs, large green olives with pits and even a
whole roasted chicken leg. Everyone takes time to enjoy
their individual casseroles along with cool fresh fruit
home, I often skip the roasted chicken and eggs and opt
instead to add sliced olives to a highly-seasoned (but not
spicy) beef picadillo filling. The corn crust takes a bit of
time because you need quite a lot of sweet corn kernels.
Fortunately, corn is inexpensive at this time of the year.
When pressed for time, I use the frozen organic super sweet
cut corn from Trader Joe’s — it’s a rich yellow corn
sporting great flavor. You’ll need 1 1/2 packages to yield
4 1/2 cups of kernels.
the meaty layer and the corn batter can be made in advance.
Assembly is easy: Simply spread the meat in a layer in a
heavy cast-iron pan or baking dish and top with the corn
batter. To keep the house cool, I often bake the dish on the
gas grill (not directly over the heat source) set to medium
heat, about 350 degrees on an oven thermometer set inside
the pastel de choclo with a hearty green lettuce salad
dressed with olive oil and a fruity vinegar. I like to serve
watermelon juice with a splash of sparkling water and a
squeeze of lime for a summer refresher.
SWEET CORN CASSEROLE WITH BEEF PICADILLO (‘PASTEL DE
About 65 minutes
4 servings (6 with optional ingredients)
to add coarse shreds of grilled chicken thigh and
hard-cooked eggs to the meat mixture; neither are necessary.
For this recipe, you will need a 10-inch-diameter cast-iron
pan (measured from outside rim to outside rim) that is 2
medium-size sweet onion, halved, chopped
pound ground beef (recommended: 85 percent lean)
medium-size red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 to 3
tablespoons sliced pitted manzanilla or Kalamata olives
tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
teaspoon ground cumin
teaspoon minced fresh oregano (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
teaspoon minced fresh thyme (or a pinch dried)
fresh sweet corn, shucked and rinsed (or 24 ounces frozen
sweet corn kernels)
tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or basil
2 to 3
cups roughly shredded boneless skinless cooked chicken,
hard-boiled eggs, peeled, halved, optional
the savory layer, melt butter in large nonstick skillet over
medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir 3 minutes. Stir
in beef. Cook, breaking meat up into small chunks, until
golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in bell pepper, garlic
and olives. Stir in dissolved cornstarch until mixture
boils, about 2 minutes. Stir in salt, paprika, cumin,
oregano and thyme. Remove from heat and cool. (Mixture can
be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated covered.)
corn crust, add corn (either the shucked ears or the frozen
corn) to a large kettle of boiling salted water. Cook 2
minutes. Drain and cool. If using corn on the cob, set each
ear in a deep bowl and use a sharp knife to remove the corn
kernels. You should have about 4 1/2 cups corn kernels.
corn kernels, cornmeal, milk, cornstarch, sugar and salt
into a food processor (or work in batches in a blender).
Process until mixture is a nearly smooth batter.
Heat butter in large saucepan and add corn mixture. Cook and
stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture boils
and thickens enough to make a clean swipe across the bottom
of the pan, about 5 minutes. Cool. (Mixture can be made
several hours in advance; use at room temperature.)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread beef mixture over the
bottom of a 10-inch well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or a
deep 2 1/2-quart baking dish. Top with cilantro or basil.
Nestle the chicken and eggs, if using, down into the beef
a spatula to evenly spread the corn mixture over the meat
mixture so it is completely covered. Smooth the top with the
spatula and sprinkle with sugar to promote browning. Bake
until the top is set and lightly browned at the edges, about
Cool about 10 minutes on a wire rack. Use a metal spatula or
pancake flipper to cut wedges and serve.
information per serving (without optional ingredients): 589
calories, 25 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol,
64 g carbohydrates, 26 g protein, 1242 mg sodium, 6 g fiber
CORN WITH SRIRACHA MAYO
1 to 2
tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce to taste
freshly ground pepper
Light a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill to medium hot. Mix
mayonnaise and Sriracha in small bowl.
Shuck corn to remove the silks but leave some of the leaves
on the ends to use as a handle. Tie the leaves neatly with
kitchen string if desired. Put corn onto a baking sheet and
drizzle lightly with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill corn directly over the heat (with the leaves
positioned so they are not over the coals). Cook, turning
occasionally, until kernels are golden on all sides, about 8
minutes total. Remove to a serving platter. Spread with
mayonnaise. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
corn, Sriracha and tomato salad: After grilling corn as
directed, remove kernels with a sharp knife to a bowl. Stir
in 3 thinly sliced green onions and 1/4 cup sliced fresh
basil leaves. Slice 3 medium-size ripe tomatoes into
1/2-inch wedges and stir into corn. Stir in the mayonnaise
mixture and salt to taste. Serve immediately.
information per serving: 229 calories, 18 g fat, 3 g
saturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 17 g carbohydrates, 3 g
protein, 329 mg sodium, 2 g fiber