Saturday, November 3, 2012

Skillet Tamale Pie - Easy Comfort Food

This classic Mexican flavored dish brings me back to a time when I was in Middle School (must have been in the late 60's). My mother used to buy a boxed Tamale Pie Dinner (I can't remember the brand, though). I remember browning the beef, adding the spice mix and then adding water and egg to the cornmeal batter.  

Now that I think about it, I don't think I've made a tamale pie since then!  So, how could I remake this from scratch?On work week nights, I want to get dinner on the table as fast as I can.  If there are leftovers that reheat well in the microwave at my office, it's  win-win.  This recipe fits the bill. Fast. Easy. Good. Man-Pleasing.

I re-read this cookbook, last weekend, and was surprised at how many recipes I've made. I've made their Skillet Chicken Broccoli & Pasta Dinner multiple times. In my book, America's Test Kitchen is up there with Ina Garten when it comes to recipes that are pretty much guaranteed to be good.  I saw the Skillet Tamale Pie recipe, and realized that I had one pound of ground beef that I needed to either cook or freeze. Dinner was on!

(I added a couple of tweaks to the recipe, and I will note those in the printable recipe card, at the bottom of this post.)

We begin with chopped onion and chili powder.  I added cumin, because I think it's what belongs in Mexican recipes. 

The recipe lists chopped tomatoes, drained. I happened to have a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, because I love to add mild green chilis.  You need black beans, drained and minced garlic.

Of course, you need ground beef.  I'm thinking that turkey could work, too, but I haven't tried that yet.  Brown the meat, then add the drained tomatoes and beans.  I'm a believer in adding tomato paste to most of my braised or skillet recipes that includes tomatoes.  I think it adds more depth of flavor.  Whenever I open a can of tomato paste, I freeze portions for later use.  

I also decided to add some frozen corn, because black beans + corn = delicious combination.  Last, grated cheddar cheese is added and cilantro.  Hate cilantro? Really? Then use parsley.

The cornmeal topping is easy to make. You need flour, yellow cornmeal, buttermilk, egg and baking powder and baking soda and melted butter.  Once the wet ingredients are whisked and added to the dry ingredients, just spread it evenly over the cooked filling. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, and serve.

The downside to daylight savings time is that shooting photos in natural light becomes a very slim margin.  The photo is a bit darker than I'd like, but at least you can see that the filling held well.

TASTING NOTES:  The prep work for this recipe is very minimal, except for chopping an onion and mincing some garlic.  Skillet dinners are perfect for a busy night, because I can clean up my mess while it's cooking/baking.  Taste:  My favorite part is the cornmeal crust. It's tender, and I think that buttermilk is the key ingredient.  I have made some notes for the next time I make this-- I will use my own Mexican Seasoning Blend (recipe card below), and a tablespoon of chopped chipotle peppers to kick it up the heat a lot more.  If this is being made for kids, then maybe not.  I would add another small can of diced green chilis, too and even more cheddar cheese-- like double. This would be great with a dollop of sour cream. Overall, it's a comforting dish that did reheat, very well, for my lunch at work.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of Internet Explorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here. If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help.

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Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I was flipping through my mother's old cookbook this morning looking for a recipe and saw her tamale pie. Gosh I haven't had that in years I thought. What a nice coincidence that's what you've featured today. Thanks!

Barbers of Lucky Lane said...

This looks delicious! I never have buttermilk on hand, so would there be a problem in using low-fat milk instead?

Debby Foodiewife said...

There is a quick way to make buttermilk. Add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to milk and let it sit for about 10 minutes (some people use lemon juice). There you go!

Joanne said...

I haven't had tamale pie in forever but now you've got me craving that spicy filling underneath a delicious cornmeal crust!

Tracey said...

This looks delicious.
Approximately how many servings does this recipe make?

Debby Foodiewife said...

I would say this serves 6-8 people.

Big Dude said...

I'd say that's a long time between tamale pie's, but I'm not sure I've ever had it. Your version looks and sounds delicious. We often have chili pie which Bev makes by topping leftover chili with her Mexican cornbread and I suspect the taste may be similar.

Karen said...

Love the addition of corn to this. Great recipe.

Velva said...

Skillet dinners are perfect for weeknights. This dish is hearty-actually, it would be perfect for my soccer playing boys when they return from school.

This recipe has been noted. Thanks for sharing.


Kim said...

My Mom made a recipe much like this one and it was LOVED by all. Absolute comfort food and so easy!

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

I'm in a Mexican food frame of mind and this pie sounds delicious, Debby. I haven't made one in years and like the idea that I will have leftovers for the next day. I never get tired of all those delicious flavors.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I haven't had tamale pie in years. I like the additions that you made to the recipe...especially Rotel tomatoes.

Mary said...

Our weather has started to change and this would be a perfect meal to beat back the Oregon damp and chill. This sounds delicious. I hope all is well. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

qrops said...

nice post

Anonymous said...

thanks for share.