Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND

DISCLOSURE: This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner., on behalf of the Beef Checkoff, as part of my role as a member of the Beef Expert Bureau.

During a cool rainy afternoon in mid-April my husband and I were watching an episode of Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations. I wasn’t feeling great, and my husband was reeling with news of his work furlough. Watching TV at 2 p.m. while cuddling under cozy blankets on our couch was just what we needed that Thursday afternoon.

Host Andrew Zimmern was visiting Quebec City. One of the featured iconic foods was Pâté Chinois, a home-cooked comfort food classic that many in the restaurant scene are now featuring on their menus. Andrew explained that this beef, corn, and mashed potato dish was developed by Chinese immigrants living in Quebec in the 1880s who adapted recipes for British shepherd’s pie.

My husband gently asked, “Do you think I could make that?” He’s not a very confident cook, but he’s a very loving husband. He was ready to do what he could to make my life a bit easier that day by cooking dinner.

I replied, “Well, we have nearly everything you’d need. Why don’t you try?” Off he went to the kitchen to start cooking, occasionally asking for a tip or suggestion. When he finally served it a few hours later, I had to ask if he snuck in any secret ingredients. He smiled and admitted he’d put in one. Love.

If you want to make this, here is a basic recipe along with Scott’s restaurant-style version. We’ve also offered up some ingredient substitutions.

Basic Pâté Chinois

Makes 4-6 servings

1 lb. Ground Beef, browned and seasoned with salt & pepper
1 15. oz. can cream style corn
4 cups mashed potatoes

The ingredients can be layered beef-corn-potatoes in one larger pan (an 8-inch square baking pan works well) or layered in individual dishes (six 8 oz. ramekins work well, placed on a baking sheet) and baked in a 350°F oven until the mashed potatoes start to brown, about 30-45 minutes, less time for the ramekins and more for the single larger pan.

Scott’s Restaurant-Style Pâté Chinois

Makes 6 servings

1.5 lbs. Ground Beef
1 large white or yellow onion, peeled, trimmed, and diced
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
1-15 oz. can cream style corn
4 cups prepared instant or homemade mashed potatoes
1 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
Ketchup (optional condiment)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat brown the Ground Beef.
  3. When the beef is nearly fully cooked, add the diced onions, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
  4. Spread cooked beef-onion mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking dish.
  5. Spread whole kernel corn over the beef-onion mixture, and then spoon the cream style corn over the whole kernel corn.
  6. Top with mashed potatoes mixed with mozzarella cheese.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  8. Serve warm. Home cooks in Canada serve their Pâté Chinois with ketchup, and we agree it is a wonderful condiment to pair with this very comforting dish.

Ingredient Swaps

Instead of:Try:
Ground BeefBraised, shredded beef, which you can make by braising a small beef roast, like a beef Eye of Round Roast, Sirloin Tip Roast, Chuck Roast or Top Round Roast. We like to use beer to braise beef. To braise a small beef roast (2-2.5 pounds), place the roast in a covered roasting dish with 12 ounces of beer. Cook, covered, at 375°F for 2-3 hours, or until the beef is tender enough to shred with two forks. Use the shredded beef in place of the Ground Beef for the base of the casserole. Be sure to season the beef with salt and pepper.
Ground BeefPre-made, store bought shredded beef—just don’t add salt and pepper to it; it usually comes seasoned. And if it has any sauce on it, drain off the sauce before using.
Onions1 packet dry onion soup mix added to the beef with ½ cup water. You can omit the salt if you use this swap; most soup mixes typically contain added salt.
Cream-style CornRegular canned corn, drained, and blended with ¼ cup milk
Cream-style CornCanned corn or frozen corn. While the cream style corn is a traditional ingredient, you don’t have to use it. Use whatever type of corn you have, including fresh corn, cut off the cob. You’ll need 2-3 cobs of corn, depending on the size of the cobs.
Mashed PotatoesWe love to use instant mashed potatoes to cut back on the time and dishes it takes to make this recipe!
Mashed PotatoesUse store bought, ready to heat and eat mashed potatoes to save even more time when making this dish.
Mozzarella CheeseMild cheddar cheese or 4 oz. cream cheese