1920's Humble Tamale Pie
That should say 1 cup of cornmeal.
"Julie Bove" wrote in message
Just got finished reading a great book called Fashionable Food. It is
seven decades of food fads (mainly USA food) up until the 1990's. It has
lots of recipes and pictures of how kitchens were over the years. This
sort of thing is right up my alley! Keep in mind that the recipes listed
were fads. And it did say that most of the recipes were really pretty
inedible but the end result could be pretty such as the composed salads
made to resemble flowers dotted with tinted cream cheese. And here I
found the 1920's Humble Tamale Pie recipe. Yes, there is an American
savory pie but... Why it is called a pie is beyond me because I think
it's more of a casserole than pie although it does have layers.
I have made tamale pies over the years using a cornbread top crust. They
were okay but did not taste like a tamale. And neither did this. This
actually didn't taste very good to me at all. More like creamed corn gone
bad. Didn't have the texture of creamed corn mind you. Just oddly enough
the taste. And I like creamed corn but something just wasn't right with
And I did make a few mistakes. One being that I apparently can not judge
what half is. Put too much mush on the bottom and not enough on top.
Didn't seem to matter once it was slopped on the plate. Two being that I
didn't measure my tomatoes and may have put too many in. I used two 14.5
oz cans. Probably should have gone with 1.5 cans or better still some
other form of tomato product because this wasn't so great in there. Then
I put in too much chili powder which my husband probably liked because
there is no amount of heat that is too much for him. It was just a wee
bit more than I liked but not so much that it left me screaming. I wound
up tossing that bottle of chili powder. It was a cheap brand and all
clumped. And not much left in it so I just tossed it. I have more and
better stuff. Oh and I used Bob's Red Mill corn meal. I had never tried
it before and it seemed a bit coarser than I am used to. Perhaps should
have used Alber's instead?
The end result? Extremely filling! I only ate perhaps 12 bites of the
stuff and it sat in my stomach like lead. Served with plain pinto beans
on the side and some canned Spanish rice. Yeah the rice wasn't too good
either but it was cheap at Big Lots and I figured from the aroma that this
thing gave off while baking that I would be needing something additional.
At least the beans were good! Heh! But as I described this to my mom,
she said it sounded just like a dish that her mom made when she was a kid.
It is very economical and my mom came from a big family so I can see how
this would fit the bill there. Here is the recipe if you are so inclined.
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter or mild vegetable oil
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cups canned tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder or to taste
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir 1 cup of the water and the salt into
the cornmeal in a large saucepan. Bring remaining 2 cups water to a boil
and stir into the cornmeal mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring
constantly, until thick. Line a buttered 9 inch square baking dish (I
used my big blue cornflower Pyrex) with half of the mush.
Melt butter in skillet. Fry beef and onion until meat is lightly browned
and onion is soft. Drain excess fat. Add tomatoes and seasonings and
cook for a few minutes. Note that I had to cook for more than a few.
Even though my tomatoes did not appear to have much juice, it sure did
come out of them as they cooked. I did buy pre-chopped so perhaps the
whole would have been better and I would chop them. That is most likely
what they had in those days. Taste and correct the seasoning. Pour meat
mixture over the mush and top with the rest of the mush. Bake until
browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Mine actually took a bit less but most likely
because I didn't have enough mush on the top. And it gave off a lot of
liquid despite being cooked down after the tomatoes were added for close
to 20 min.
I doubt that I will make this again. But if I do, I will likely add some
chilies or something to amp up the flavor. Perhaps add them to the mush.
And use another form of tomato product like sauce or salsa. Heck, I might
even forgo the mush and just use creamed corn. But then it will be even
less tamale-like and in no way will be a pie but... It might taste
better. I have used creamed corn in my enchilada casserole because it
gives a bit of a creamy texture that otherwise would be missing due to my
not being able to have cheese.