Pi Day: Pastel de Choclo

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If you needed a good excuse to eat pie, today is your day! The 14th day of the third month of the year, 3/14 has been designated Pi Day in celebration of the mathematical constant 3.14, or π. It’s been awhile since high school geometry, so for those who can’t remember, pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. As an irrational number, its digits after the decimal point continue infinitely without any repetition or pattern- a fact that I find kind of exciting! I once met a person who had an irrational (hehe get it?) fear of infinity, so if you suffer from apeirophobia, try not to think about pi too much.

However, Pi Day isn’t just for mathematicians. Although there are a number of pi-themed events, like the San Francisco Exploratorium’s Pi Day celebration, pie enthusiasts can also celebrate by chowing down on some delicious pie. Check out your local pizza parlors and bakeries to see if they have any special deals for Pi Day, but a cheaper and more creative option is to make a pie at home!

I celebrated by making pastel de choclo, a Chilean corn pie that’s similar to a shepherd’s pie, but with a sweet corn topping instead of a traditional pie crust. Pastel de choclo is probably one of my favorite Chilean dishes because it’s both sweet and savory at the same time. The raisins and corn topping contrast nicely with the salty kalamata olive and meat filling. I find these mini pasteles de choclo are infinitely satisfying and irrationally delicious, and I hope you will too!

Pastel de Choclo (Yield: 7 five-inch mini pies)

Ingredients:
For filling:
2 pounds ground beef
1 ½ cups chicken, cooked (around 3 chicken thighs)
4 boiled eggs, cut in half
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup raisins
1 cup kalamata olives, cut lengthwise with seeds removed
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Olive oil
For corn topping:
6 cups corn kernels (or 6 corn cobs)
2 cups milk
¼ cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried basil
Sugar to top

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease 7 five-inch pie pans.
  2. Coat a frying pan with olive oil and saute onions on medium-high heat until translucent.
  3. Add ground beef and season with cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Cook until beef is cooked all the way through. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, add flour to the mixture in 1 tablespoon increments until liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  4. Puree corn and milk in a food processor until the mixture is uniform. Heat butter in a large pot, then add corn mixture, sugar, and salt. Cook on medium-low heat until the corn mixture thickens, stirring frequently, for around 10 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in basil.
  5. Prepare the pie tins by first placing a handful of chicken, olives, and half a boiled egg into each pie tin. Cover with the meat mixture, around 5 tablespoons. Cover with corn puree so that it makes a top layer of around 2 centimeters. Sprinkle with sugar and put on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then increase heat to broil and cook for an additional 5 minutes until sugar caramelizes on top.
  6. Remove from heat and enjoy.
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