Monday, June 6, 2016

Tamale Pie - Classic American Style

American Style Tamale Pie

I love tamales. I love the meaty chili filling surrounded by masa. It’s one of my favorite things to order at a Mexican restaurant. I even like this casserole that uses a masa crust and tastes close to the real thing. Yet, in spite of all this, I also like the old-fashioned American style Tamale Pie casserole. No attempt at trying to make it taste authentic. It’s a cornbread-like crust that tops a ground beef filling with tomatoes, bell peppers, corn, and just a hint of chili seasoning.

It had been a long time since I made Americanized tamale pie and the craving hit me recently. I started to look up recipes online but then remembered that I’d always used one from my very old Betty Crocker Cookbook. I found the recipe for “Fiesta Tamale Pie” and happily realized I had most of the ingredients on hand. It was easy to put together, easy to alter to low sodium, and the end result was quite tasty. I topped each serving with a combination of store-bought NSA pico de gallo along with some chopped avocado and extra cilantro. It was so enjoyable that I wondered why I hadn’t made it in a while. Now that I’ve rediscovered this classic and homey casserole, I know I’ll be making it more often. It’s a perfect one dish meal!

It also lends itself to lots of variations depending on what you’ve got available and what appeals to you. You could use ground turkey, chicken, or even pork instead of beef. You could substitute NSA/low sodium whole beans, especially pinto or black beans, for half or all the meat. Or you could do the same with the corn, using well rinsed hominy. Instead of regular NSA diced tomatoes, you good use unsalted Rotel for added spice. Or perhaps use some chopped jalapenos, Anaheims, or poblanos instead of all bell peppers. You could even substitute masa for half of the cornmeal in the crust.

Hot from the Oven!

Here’s my adaptation of the original Betty Crocker recipe:

Classic American Tamale Pie
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook – 1961
(Printable Recipe)

I small onion, finely chopped
⅓ cup chopped green bell pepper (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef
1 14 oz. can NSA diced tomatoes
2 cups NSA frozen corn (I used 1 cup corn and 1 cup rinsed hominy)
1½ tsp. NSA chili powder
½ tsp. ground cumin
10 pitted ripe olives (I used Lindsay low sodium olives – 40 mg sodium/5 olives)
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup milk
2 eggs, well beaten
½ cup grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Saute onion, bell pepper (if using), garlic, and ground beef together until meat is cooked through and vegetables have softened. Drain excess fat. Add tomatoes (with juice), corn, and seasonings. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour mixture into square 9 x 9 inch casserole dish. Press olives into mixture. Combine cornmeal, milk, and eggs. Spoon over filling. If desired, sprinkle top with cheese. Bake approximately one hour until cornbread topping is fully cooked. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

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