This French Canadian inspired gluten-free shepherd’s pie (pate Chinois) is a casserole layered with ground beef, mashed potatoes and creamed corn for the perfect comforting winter meal.
What is Shepherd’s Pie?
Traditional shepherd’s pie, from the UK, is made with ground lamb (or mutton), peas and mashed potatoes. When beef is used, it’s supposed to be called “cottage pie.” But my husband grew up in northern Vermont, near Canada and they called it shepherd’s pie. His version originated in Quebec, Canada and it has ground beef instead of lamb and creamed corn in place of the peas. The French Canadians call it Pate Chinois.
From tasteatlas.com: “The name of the dish means Chinese pie, and it is believed that it was invented during the building of the Canadian railway in the 19th century by Chinese cooks, who adapted it from the famous shepherd’s pie.”
How to Make a Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s pie is a casserole that is layered with ground meat, vegetables (creamed corn in this case) and mashed potatoes. Each layer is fully cooked before going in the dish, so it is a process that takes patience. If you can multi-task a bit, this dish can make it to the oven in about 45 minutes. Here’s how to do it:
- First get the potatoes peeled, cut and on the stovetop. (See my mashed potatoes recipe for a dairy-free option)
- While they’re cooking, make the creamed corn. It can be done in less than 10 minutes.
- Next, drain and mash the potatoes. A potato ricer makes quick work of it and guarantees perfectly mashed potatoes. It’s one of the few uni-taskers I have in my kitchen.
- Last, brown the ground meat (beef or dark turkey) with some onion.
- Layer it all in a baking dish and heat. I use a soufflé dish instead of a casserole dish to add a little elegance to this rustic dish. A square 8″ ceramic dish will work well too.
Gluten-Free Creamed Corn From Scratch
You could certainly save yourself some time and use canned cream corn. Many of them are gluten-free (thickened with corn starch) but they often have a lot of sugar and funky ingredients. So I prepare mine from scratch and it mixes up so quickly. You can easily make it from start to finish while the potatoes are boiling. If you prefer canned cream corn you’ll need 2 cans.
This creamed corn recipe can be made dairy-free with the use of a milk or cream substitute like almond, coconut or soy milk and an unsalted butter substitute like Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks or even olive oil.
- Use an equal amount of yams or sweet potato in place of the russets.
- Use riced cauliflower in place of the mashed potatoes.
- For a little tang, mix 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese with the mashed potatoes.
Gluten-Free Shepherd’s Pie with Creamed Corn
- 1 lb russet potatoes, about 2 medium sized
- 3 Tbsp milk, cream or unsweetened dairy-free substitute, Nut Pods or Califa Farms almond coconut cream as df option
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter or vegan butter
- ¾ tsp salt
Gluten-Free Creamed Corn (or use 2 cans ready-made)
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 Tbsp cold water
- 12 oz or 2 c canned, frozen or fresh corn kernels, organic or non-gmo recommended
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter or butter substitute
- 2 tbsp gluten-free flour blend
- 1½ c milk or milk substitute, warm (heat in the microwave for 1 minute on high)
- 1 tsp sugar or other sweetener
- ½-¾ tsp salt
- 2 pinches black pepper
Ground Meat Layer
- 1½ lbs ground beef or dark meat turkey, approx 90/10% fat
- 1 c diced yellow or sweet onion, (about 1/2 medium-large onion)
- 2 Tbsp gluten-free flour blend or white rice flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 pinches black pepper (optional)
- If using frozen corn, spread the kernels out on an absorbent kitchen towel to thaw. If using canned, drain and spread out on a towel.
Make the Mashed Potatoes
- Rinse and peel the potatoes.
- Cut into approximately 1" cubes.
- Place in a large pot with cold water.
- Place the pot on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to prevent it bubbling over while still keeping it boiling. Cook about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.
- While the potatoes are cooking, make the creamed corn. Set a timer to remind yourself to check on the potatoes.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander.
- Heat the milk and butter (for the potatoes) in a glass measuring cup in the microwave or on the stove in a small pot.
- The fastest way to mash potatoes is with a ricer (linked above).* Using the finest disk, rice into a bowl. Then stir in the milk, butter and salt. Taste and add more salt if needed,
- If not using a ricer, place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl with the milk, butter and salt. Use a masher. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Make the Creamed Corn
- Mix the corn starch and 1 Tbsp cold water in a small bowl and set by the stove.
- Heat the butter and flour in a medium-sized (about 2 quart) pot over low-medium heat. Stir with a whisk to combine. Once the mixture is uniform and bubbling, cook for another 15 seconds.
- Pour in the warm milk stirring constantly. Turn up the flame to high and bring to a boil, stirring. When the mixture thickens, turn the flame to medium.
- Add the corn starch-water mixture and stir until it thickens further.
- Stir in the corn, sugar, ½ tsp of the salt and pepper and heat for 1 minute.
- Taste. Add the remaining salt if needed for flavor.
- Preheat the oven to 350°
Make the Ground Meat Layer
- Place a light coating of oil in a large skillet. Heat over high heat for a minute. Turn the heat to medium high and add the diced onion. Cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Push the onion to the outside of the pan.
- Add the ground meat and brown it, breaking it up with a fork or wood spoon. As it brown, incorporate the onion.
- When the meat is almost fully cooked, drain most or all of the fat. The creamed corn will provide a sauce and moisture.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring until the meat is fully cooked.
Assemble the Shepherd's Pie
- Spread the cooked meat in an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish.
- Spread the creamed corn on top.
- Spoon on the mashed potatoes and smooth the top with a knife or small spatula.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- Serve hot with ketchup.
- This shepherds pie will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 1 week. I don't recommend freezing.