Saturday, November 30, 2013

Flashback to Childhood: Tamale Pie

My mother was a ground meat maven. With three growing kids, hamburger gave her a relatively cheap way to feed a large family, and the women's magazines she subscribed to—filled with advice on wifely skills like cooking, entertaining and raising children—invariably had several recipes in each issue that called for a pound or two.

It was a time when herbs like thyme, basil and oregano were considered exotic, when Italian food was too spicy for some folks and, when tacos were introduced to middle-class tables, they were made with oil-fried tortillas, hamburger and Tillamook medium cheddar. In addition to tacos, ground beef was a primary ingredient in (so-called) Spanish rice, spaghetti sauce and a version of "goulash" that featured macaroni noodles, canned corn and more cheddar. Each of which made regular appearances on our dinner table.

Every once in awhile in a fit of nostalgia I'll get a craving for one of my mom's aforementioned dinner classics—I've already written about my reimagining of her tuna casserole—and I'll start going through the little metal boxes of recipes I copied out onto 3" by 5" cards when I was leaving for college. If that fails to turn up a lead, I'll resort to searching online for some clues.

A couple of weeks ago I'd pulled some grass-fed ground beef out of the freezer from the portion I bought from Clare at Big Table Farm and was musing over the possibilities. What sprang to mind was the cornbread-topped, chili powder-inflected American-take-on-Mexican casserole my mother would carry to the table and set before her ravening offspring.

Tamale Pie

For the cornbread topping:
1 c. flour
1 c. cornmeal
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
2 eggs
1 c. cheddar cheese, grated

For the filling:
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. hamburger
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 poblano or Anaheim chiles, chopped fine
1 1/2 c. corn
1 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
2 c. roasted tomatoes
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375°.

Mix dry ingredients for topping in medium mixing bowl. Add milk, melted butter and eggs. Stir to combine. Add cheese and mix thoroughly.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add hamburger and brown, chopping into small bits as it cooks. Add onion and garlic and sauté till tender. Add chiles and corn and sauté till chiles are tender. Add spices and tomatoes and bring to simmer. Pour into 9" by 12" baking dish. Top with corn batter by dropping spoonfuls on top of the hamburger mixture and gently spreading it to cover the top. Place baking dish in oven and bake 45 min. until topping is browned.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say thank you for the many delicious meals our family has enjoyed this year that were inspired by Good Stuff NW.

Here's wishing you and yours good health, happiness and terrific eating in the coming year!

Tony B

Kathleen Bauer said...

Wow, thanks Tony! I'm always happy to share the goodness.