Friday, December 29, 2006

A Guilty Pleasure

For all my enjoyment of “good” food, there are a few dishes that I indulge myself in, that I consider “guilty” pleasures. Not only do they fall into the guilty category, but they also fall into the “comfort food” category. When the going gets tough, when I’ve had enough … there are certain dishes I turn to.

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?


Peter A. Greene said...

For junk food, it's hard to beat Devil Dogs-- chocolate cake hot-dog-bun-like slabs carefully drained of all moisture, with cream in between. I ate them growing up in New England but find them just out of reach here in PA.

And I'll celebrate New Years as I did Christmas-- steak grilled with garlic and pepper. With rice.

Anonymous said...

MitMoi: You're right about not wanting to melt Velveeta for any kind of casserole! It's [i] MUCH [/i] better just carving a hunk off and eating it right out of the box! : )

Mit_Moi said...

Ahhh! Heresy I say Alacrityfitz! NO VELVEETA shall EVER *knowingly* PASS THESE LIPS. (Unless I'm stuck on Hood, or Everest, or Shasta, or Lassen ... )

Joe said...

I'm not sure if this is a guilty pleasure or comfort food or whatever, but it seems to fit in here: creamed chipped beef made with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup. My dad used to call it foreskins on toast. I usually use meat other than chipped beef: leftover sausage, bits of ham, ham or chicken cold cuts, leftover turkey, bacon.... I always feel a little guilty about opening that can of soup, but whatever. It's just the thing for breakfast some mornings. I have some of it leftover in the fridge right now.

Anonymous said...

Guilty pleasures? I must have some of those, because one does not go from a size 8/10 to a 14/16 within the span of several years without being a foodie on some sort of level. I'd say my list would include mac n' cheese with cut up hot mothers wonderful homemade vegetable soup...the Frito Pie @ Hard Times Cafe...beef brisket sandwiches...spinach and artichoke dip with kettle chips...the Southwest Alfredo @ Sawmill...the famous homemade enchiladas made by both Momma A and Billy Bob (I refuse to take sides on their argument on which of their recipes is the way real enchiladas are made...both recipes are absolutely divine, so why quibble?)...oh I could go on and on about what my guilty pleasures/comfort foods are. I have way too many! Now, where did I put that tub of cake frosting...



Woodstock said...

I can't get near Frito pie (which they have in Colorado as well, BTW): it's a side effect of having grown up in the same neighborhood as, yes, a Frito plant. ya gonna post a recipe for this or just tell us about it? ;)