tamale pie, 3 down, 49 to go

since i like to try new things, i thought i would go savory this week with my third pie. for some time now, i have wanted to try a tamale pie. tamales are one of my favorite latin american foods and i was hoping to get that combination of flavors and textures and transfer it to a pie. maybe next time, this(my second of two attempts) is more like a combination of a burrito and a tamale but even so, the flavor was very good and i even caught my husband going back for seconds, something he didn’t do on the first attempt.
since a tamale pie was a new dish for me, i started off by using a recipe i found on about.com and you can look at the original recipe here. after looking at several recipes, i settled on this one because it did not use cornbread as the topping. this one used a cooked cornmeal mixture-like polenta but thinner as the crust and the topping. somehow, the amount called for seemed to be very short and hardly enough to do the job of a bottom and top crust. my solution was to take a small stack of corn tortillas and use them to line the pie plate. turns out that using tortillas was a good idea. they are lower in fat than a traditional pie crust and worked out pretty well. i definitely plan to try using them again in a similar recipe but keep in mind, they are not nearly as sturdy as a pie crust and will not offer any support to a warm dish-i just about had to use a spoon to scoop out the servings. to get the photo, i had to wait until it sat in the fridge over night.
if anyone out there bakes a pie using this recipe, send me a photo and i will post it here in a round up. so go ahead, bake one of the pies in the challenge-i dare you, double dare you, pretty please with sugar on it…okay, no more pleading but i promise that if you send me a photo of one of the pies, i will post it. happy baking!
beef tamale pie-serves 6
adapted from about.com
8 corn tortillas
1 cup cooked rice-a great use for leftover rice (something i always seem to have)
6 ounces mexican crumbling cheese, i used one called panela
1 pound lean ground beef-you can use any type of ground meat for this including soy crumbles
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onions
2 tablespoons finely diced fresh chilis-i used 3 red serranos (less if you use habaneros!)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 can (14.5 ounces) roasted diced tomatoes with the juice
1 cup corn kernels-frozen or fresh
1 small can diced green chilis
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
lightly grease the pie plate and line it with 7 of the tortillas by placing them around the side in a circle. there will be a small area in the middle where the tortillas will slightly overlap, place the final tortilla in the center and this will give the bottom a little more thickness. sprinkle the rice evenly over the bottom of the pie shell. crumble the cheese evenly over the rice and set this aside for now.
in a skillet over medium heat, cook the ground meat in up to 2 tablespoons of olive oil (if using a nonstick pan, the oil will not be necessary). keep stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks so it will be free flowing and not in large clumps. when cooked, pour into a strainer set over a bowl to drain off any of the rendered fat that has collected in the pan. heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet and saute the onions, chilis and garlic until the onions are translucent. add the drained meat, the tomatoes with their juice, corn, green chilis, chili powder, cumin and salt and allow this mixture to simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. the moisture should be reduced a bit but it will not be dry, and will appear a little saucy. preheat the oven to 375. pour this mixture over the rice and cheese in the pie plate and level it out.
in a small pan, combine the water, cornmeal, oil and salt and cook over medium low heat until it thickens to a mush-like consistency. spread this mixture over the top of the pie and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 170 degrees for most ground meats. allow the pie to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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