Grandmother Mitchell’s Tamale Pie

September 27th, 2009
by: Sue

My Grandmother Mitchell is a legendary cook in my family. She made blackberry cobblers I still dream about, and her turkey and dressing set the standard for holiday fare for us. Grandmother taught my Mom most of what she knew about cooking, and most of the things that Mom did really well were a product of this training. Tamale pies came on the scene during the depression. Using only 3/4 pounds of hamburger, this dish will feed a lot of people! I must confess I usually splurge and use a whole pound of hamburger. We love tamale pie for Christmas Eve dinners, and serve it with beans and rice and salsa. It’s a good way to prepare for the holiday season and a nice change from the usual holiday fare. The cornmeal mush that is the base for this recipe is a “polenta” and we love it! Thanks, Grandmother, now if you had only left us the recipe for your cobbler.

1 cup cornmeal
3 cups water (or chicken broth for extra flavor)
1 teaspoon salt

Place three ingredients in a large sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until you have a stiff cornmeal mush. Line a greased large baking dish with the mush, reserving enough to drop by teaspoons on top of casserole before baking the pie.

1 large onion
3/4 pounds hamburger
1 cup tomatoes
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 chopped green peppers
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions and meat in skillet; add remaining ingredients and pour over the mush. Drop remaining mush over the casserole, top with grated cheese if desired, and bake at 400 degrees until browned. Slice into squares, and serve with fresh salsa and beans. Serves 5 or 6 people.

Hint: I like to add crushed red pepper flakes to this filling . I also like to use chicken broth for the mush instead of water, and moisten it with some butter stirred into the mush to make a richer taste. I think Grandmother would approve.

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