Tamale Pie

Date Cooked: January 30, 2023

This recipe showed up in my NY Times feed last January. While it is obviously nothing like authentic tamales, it just struck me as a great comfort food meal for the middle of winter. The recipe was originally in the Joy of Cooking and was updated in the New York Times in 2006 as part of their review of the 75th anniversary of the publishing of the Joy of Cooking. The original recipe is on page 252 of the Joy of Cooking 1975 edition.

We’ve had a copy of the Joy of Cooking since 1979 and used to pull recipes from it, but have rarely cooked anything from it in the last couple of decades. When our sons were in college we made an attempt to send them some homemade chocolates from the book, but had a spectacular fail. Either the recipe didn’t have a note to temper the molten hot chocolate before adding the egg, or it did and we just didn’t know what “tempering” meant. Well, what it means if you don’t temper the sauce is you get scrambled eggs mixed in with hot melted chocolate.

Um, what does that have to do with tamale pie? Nothing, I just went on a walk down memory lane.

I used the NY Times version of the recipe which is pretty close to the original Joy of Cooking – which I’m looking at while writing this post. The biggest difference is that the original recipe uses tomato soup but the NY Times version uses tomato sauce. I broke from tradition of both the recipes by using a red bell pepper instead of green. I don’t like green bell peppers – too grassy tasting – and substitute red or yellow when I can.

This is a pretty quick and straight forward meal to cook. It has two parts: the chili-like sauce …

Ingredients for the tamale pie filling

… and the topping

Ingredients for tamale pie cord bread topping

Chop the onion and bell pepper, measure some other stuff, then sauté the hamburger and onion until the meat is brown. It looked like this juts before the next step

Hamburger and onion sautéing.

Then add the bell pepper, corns and black beans (I used some of my homemade) and take a picture (strictly optional)

Hamburger and onion, meet corn, bell pepper and black beans.

Add your spice bomb of chili powder, cumin, salt and black pepper and stir to combine. Add the tomato sauce and chicken (or beef) stock and simmer for 15 minutes.

Tamale pie filling ready to go

While the sauce is simmering whip up your corn bread.

Tamale pie cornbread topping ingredients mis en place.

Combine dry ingredients in one mixing bowl and wet ingredients in the other. Whisk the wet into the dry, stir, and voila cornbread mixture.

Corn bread topping mixture

Grease a casserole dish with butter or cooking spray, add the filling mixture to the dish; then put the topping on … top. It kind of sinks into the chili

Tamale pie ready for the oven

Put the casserole into your preheated 425° oven and bake about 20 minutes until the corn bread is golden. It smelled great cooking in the oven! Do I need to remind you to use pot holders when taking the dish out of the oven?

Tamale pie out of the oven and ready to eat.

Also use a pot holder to steady the dish while you spoon it into a pasta bowl (if you want to be fancy) or onto a plate. Top with slices of avocado and a dollop of sour cream and dinner is ready.

Dinner is served: tamale pie!

This really hit the spot on a cold January day. Heck, it would be great here this spring in Portland where we’ve had the coldest April in 50 or 75 years depending on who you listen to. This dish is definitely in our fall/winter/spring rotation now. It yields a great taste with not a lot of effort.

Rating: ★★★★ Four stars Next time I’ll increase the topping by 50%.

Dare I say, this dish gave me an idea for a hamburger chili that I could maybe put on hot dogs. Two parts of my ego have taken up residence on my shoulders.

Ego 1: NO! You’ve sworn off trying to make chili dogs.

Ego 2: Yeah; whatever. Doesn’t it look good though. And it could work, right?

Ego 1: You will never learn will you? 5 tries and you STILL have this chili dog obsession? It’s your white whale, Ahab. No good will come of it.

Ego 2: You’re probably right, but….

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