On an early Saturday morning, my boyfriend’s dad picked me up so that I could try my hand at Pastel de Choclo, a dish that might qualify as the country’s favorite.
While not necessarily difficult, it’s a darn long process, and you have to pay attention. Lucky for me, there is no better teacher than my boyfriend’s mom, Iris. Somehow, everything is cooks is down right delicious.
So here it goes, getting everything ready
You need a whole bunch of non-GMO corn, a few white onions, a handful of basil, chicken, high quality (aka, not fatty) ground meat, milk, black olives, raisins, a couple hard boiled eggs, and spices.
Cut all the corn off the cob and then put it, in small sections, in the blender to puré it. This takes a long time and be careful to not put in too much corn at a time, you’ll burn-out the blender. Lucky for us, Iris and Vicente have a carnecería, a little meat shop, so we were able to put all the corn through the grinder at once and finish it in a sweet couple minutes. Then, put the corn puré in your biggest pot.
If the corn is fresh in season, it will be nice and liquidy. But, if it’s towards the end of the season when the corn is drier, you just need to take some of that corn in your hand, and squeeze all the liquid out, using just the juice, not the pulp that remains.
Next, before next steps with the corn, get the meat going. This typical meat combination, called pino, is used in many dishes like the traditional favorite, empanada de pino. Basically, you use a good quality, not fatty, ground meat and mix it with all those finely chopped onions, some finely chopped garlic cloves, and spices, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, paprika, cinamon, and merken.
Then, start the chicken. You can use whatever kind of chicken you want, but, for the ease of eating, we used chicken breasts. You can make them in the oven or on the stove like we did. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and oregano, flipping to get a good toasted-ness on both sides.
Last for preparation, start boiling some eggs.
Back to the corn
I say it’s important to get all that going first because, once you start the corn, you literally can’t leave it until it’s done. You need to stir constantly, for around an hour. You can take a momentary break to flip the chicken, stir the meat or turn off the eggs, but you can’t stop enough to put everything together.
Turn the corn on very low heat and add in a handful or so of fresh finely chopped basil, some olive oil and a little milk. Get to stirring,really scraping the bottom so that it doesn’t stick. As the corn cooks, it will get thicker, so keep adding milk and water as necessary.
It will also change color, becoming more yellow. Add in salt and sugar, gradually, because flavor changes as it cooks. You can start tasting it maybe after half hour, and keep stirring, adding in your salt, sugar, milk, water until its a nice creamy mixture and the raw corn flavor has gone away. Likely, this will be after about an hour of work.
Caution: you’re arms will be sore!
Once all the foods are done comes the fun part, layering. Now, since we were making big portions, and we’re living practically, we made it in a big cake pan. However, traditionally, it is served in oven-ready clay bowls… but that’s a lot more work… and a lot more dishes :)
First layer is the pino. And then, on top of that, goes the strategically placed chicken, raisins, olives, and hard boiled egg. Very important, every serving has to have a little bit of everything!
The last layer is the corn. All topped with a little sugar, cinnamon, and butter, to create a nicely toasted, delicious looking top. Bake in the oven for 45ish minutes, and, voila…. enjoy!!