And my mom added a secret ingredient which made her Tamale Pie stand out from the rest. I'll tell you about it below.
Usually using ground beef as the filling ~ but there is no reason you cannot use chicken, turkey (either ground, or cooked and shredded) or vegetables if you prefer.
This time I made it with lean ground beef and lean ground pork. But you might keep this in mind because it's a great way to utilize some of that leftover cooked turkey from Thanksgiving.
The other ingredients are diced yellow/brown onions, corn (I use frozen), tomatoes - canned diced or stewed (older versions of the recipe just call for tomato sauce but I like the chunks), fresh minced garlic, chili powder, oregano and cumin. Bell pepper (or diced, canned Ortega chilis), and Salt & Pepper.
Add chili flakes if you like, but I like this recipe mildly flavored.
My mom's secret ingredient?
A teaspoon or just a little more of cider or white vinegar stirred into the filling during the last few moments of simmering. It piques the flavors beautifully.
Some incorporate beans into the filling; kidney, black beans or even chili beans work well.
Oh, and I forgot to mention black olives. Nothing fancy, just good old California black olives from the can; they are mild and don't compete with the other ingredients.
Some versions sandwich the filling between the cooked cornmeal, but my mom always placed the prepared filling in a deep casserole then topped with the cooked cornmeal with no bottom layer of cornmeal, and that's the way I prefer it. I used finely ground Italian polenta this time and made individual size servings.
Then baked until hot and bubbling, you can sprinkle with grated cheese during the last few minutes if you like. Serve additional grated cheese, and sour cream at the table if you like.
Can be made a few hours ahead and refrigerated until time to bake.
My favorite tips for Tamale Pie~
- Make it as mild or as spicy as you like.
- Don't be locked into the ground beef version; you can use ground chicken or turkey.
- You can also use leftovers ~ shredded beef, pork, chicken or turkey, or make it all vegetable.
- Add beans if you like
- And most importantly; you'll probably want to ramp up the seasonings for todays tastes.
- Don't forget the cumin! :)
- Mom's Secret Ingredient?
- Stir in about a teaspoon (or a smidge more) of white or apple cider vinegar to the filling ingredients at the end of simmer time.
It is one of those casseroles that once you make it, you truly don't need a recipe ~ but here are a couple of links to recipes just in case you've never made this before. I always increase the seasonings because we prefer this casserole to be very flavorful.
Tamale Pie recipes: