"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What Exactly Makes This Chinese? (recipe)

Living in the Boston area after growing up in New Hampshire, I seldom find myself in situations that would be considered culture shock, but the first time I talked about having made this for dinner, there it was. I grew up eating "Chinese pie." My Polish/Russian mother learned how to make it from her Canadian French sister-in-law.

When I referred to this dish as "Chinese pie," I got nothing but blank stares and, "What the hell is 'Chinese pie?'" Then I was informed that this was called "shepherd's pie." Huh. Go figure.

By the way, it's not really shepherd's pie. Shepherd's pie is generally made with leftover ingredients. Click any of the links to take you to Wikipedia where you may find out more.

Anyhow, this is a favorite of mine as the weather turns cold, but I'd eat it all year because I love it.

1 small onion, diced
2 lbs. ground beef
3 cans cream style corn (see ingredients notes below)
enough mashed potatoes to serve 12

Saute onion and ground beef, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, until cooked through. Drain thoroughly.
Layer ingredients (beef, then corn, then potatoes) evenly in a 9 x 13" baking dish.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes until peaks of potatoes are lightly browned.

A few notes about ingredients:

Don't use the super lean beef, like 97%. This dish needs at least a little fat. I usually prefer about 85%, but have used 90%. (It's better with the 85%.)
Mom always used cream style corn, which is more traditional, but I often go for a mix of cream style and whole kernel. For the pictured example, I used one can of cream style and two cans of whole kernel, but I wished I'd used the opposite.
If you prefer frozen corn, you want to use about 3-4 cups.
Don't cringe. Mom always used instant mashed potatoes. So do I. This dish is terrific made with my garlic mashed potatoes which are made from scratch (yes, that recipe will eventually be posted here on my blog), but it's just not the same.
You may notice that in the photo below you can't see any onion. That's because the kids won't eat it. Instead I substituted about 1/2 tsp of onion powder. They didn't notice and I didn't miss having the real thing.

What to do with the leftovers:

Reheat them in the microwave. This is one of those dishes that's even better the next day. In fact, you could assemble the whole deal, refrigerate it overnight, then heat it in the oven the next day. It will take longer to heat from the fridge, probably about 45minutes.



  1. I love reading your posts. Thank you.
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    Please check it out here.

  2. I have made Chinese pie with use of lean beef. You are right that it is good to avoid lean beef which makes it more fatty. When i had served this pie on my dinning table, no body liked my new experiment.

  3. Yep, it needs that little bit of fat that you get from the beef.

    I've made this recipe every which way including using ground chicken, turkey, or a combination,but I always go back to the way it's been handed down through the generations of my father's side of the family.

    I made it last weekend because it was requested, but the request came with a demand for gravy. Huh. My bff's hubs handed me a jar of brown gravy & said, "Just heat it up. Trust me."

    I'm willing to try anything once. It was yummy and the kids loved it.

  4. also grew up eating chinese pie in Washington State. I have made often and everyone loves it. People have also told me that it was shephards pie and I always tell them it is not. It has a unigue taste, not shephards pie taste. I am 49 years old and finally asked my dad (who had always made for us) where the recipe came from and he told me that my mother, who grew up in New Hampshire, and a group of girls in high school made it up in home ec class. I don't think that is the original place it started but it is interesting that it is a New Hampshire thing.

    1. Hey Judith! Thanks for stopping by. According to Wikipedia, it's actually a Canadian thing that migrated south to New England, much the same way American Chop Suey did.