Last nights dinner was just such a dish. Tamale Pie. I lurvs me some tamale pie. In fact, only about ½ of it is left after dinner last night and lunch today!
Now, I’m not sure how regional Tamale Pie is – certainly it’s no surprised we had it in California, and I’ve run into it in Arizona, New Mexico (where they also have Frito Pie *don’t ask*), and Texas. A friend from Indiana claimed to remember Tamale Pie – but the ingredients were ALL wrong. And I’m being charitable and not even referring to the inclusion of American Cheese in it! *tries to control stomach heaves*
For my friends in the south, Tamale Pie is a strange animal. Southern tamales are NOTHING like western tamales. Also? Most southerners have little appreciation for Masa Harina. I’ve gotten much further by changing my description to “it’s topped with grits”! (although, honestly? *stomach heaving at the idea*)
I make several variations of the same recipe. Sometimes I use hamburger (or ground beef, but NEVER ground hamburger, ok?!) I’ll also grind chicken breasts or buy ground turkey. If I’ve made Carnitas (yummy yummy roasted pork chunks), or Machaca (shredded beef), I’ll use those for the meat selection.
The original recipe (from my Grandmother) calls for Green Bell Peppers. Also not one of my favorites. So I use canned green chilis (if I’m in a hurry) or roast my own Poblano, Passilla, or Jalapenos peppers (or a combination of all three). It also calls for tomato sauce, but I always buy diced tomatoes – and puree half the can, then use the rest un-pureed. It lists chili powder, but I like adding some smoky ancho chile in there also. After the onions and peppers are sautéed, in goes the meat, then the tomatoes, garlic, drained canned corn, sliced olives (and I always double this amount, sliced black olives, yum, yum). It all gets skooshy in the pan, then I dump in the grated sharp Cheddar cheese. Or Cheddar and Jack, or Colby Jack. Finally comes the corn-meal topping. Pop it in the oven and then sit and wait a patient 40 minutes for the whole thing to bubble and burp, and assimilate. Remove from oven – let sit so it can slightly congeal – and then slice a piece of that pie!
Know what some of my other guilty pleasures are? Sugar Pops Cold Cereal (maybe once or twice a year); Snicker-doodle Cookies, (yes Wes, they really exist), Wheat Harts Hot Cereal, Broccoli/Rice casserole (but still NO VELVEETA people!), pre-made cocktail meatballs, and cocktail wieners. (I hang my head in shame.) Also – if I’m camping, I’ve been known to eat Ro-Tel chili cheese dip – with the diced Ro-Tel tomatoes and chilies and using canned cheese soup (yes, they’re holding a gun to my head, it’s the only reason I’m admitting to this! Camping I tell ya, it’s the camping. It’s too hard to keep cheese good in an ice-chest, so I’ll consent to cheese soup as a substitute. Please, please, don’t tell anyone else about this lapse in my judgment, ok? Please? I’ll cook for you when ever you show up if you’ll keep my secret, m’kay?).
What are some of your guilty pleasures/comfort foods? Go on, you can tell me – it’ll be our little secret, right?