This is comfort food with a kick. The chili filling is rich with spices, peppers, tomatoes, seasoned little bites of steak, fresh corn and earthy black beans.
But the real reason I crave this dish is the creamy moist masa harina topping; it's just like biting into a tamale, but without all the work. Most tamale pies use cornbread for the topping, and while that's ok, it's nothing like a real tamale. Tamales are delicious packets of masa dough wrapped in a corn husk and then steamed, so where cornbread is cakey and dry, a tamale is creamy, dense and moist. There's no contest, tamales win. You'll find bags of masa harina flour with the cornmeal, or in the international section of your store. If you've made homemade tortillas with me, then you already have it in your cupboard!
I know the list of ingredients is long, and I usually shy away from that, but every once in a while the effort is worth it. Make the chili base in the morning and forget about it until dinner. Then quickly mix up the masa topping and you're done.
The sour cream sauce gets plopped right on top of the pie and gives a cool tangy edge to every bite.
Tamale Pie with Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce
oven to 350
1/2 pound steak, chopped in small pieces (If you are a meat lover, use a pound of meat)
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown the meat on all sides. Remove it to a plate.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 poblano or pasilla pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
- Add a little more oil and then the onion, garlic, and peppers to the pan. Saute for about 8 to 10 minutes until they start to soften.
1 7-oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped, sauce and all
1 cup of chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 cup beer
1 Tbsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
- Add the above ingredients to the pan, along with the steak and its juices. Bring to a simmer. Simmer the chile for about 15 minutes. Then add:
1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
- Simmer for another 15 minutes and check the seasonings.
- Add masa harina to the sauce and stir, it will thicken just a bit. Use your judgement here; if the chili seems to thick, add a touch of water. If it seems too thin, add another Tbsp of masa harina dissolved in a little water. Cook for a minute or two more, and then pour the chili into a casserole dish. If you are making this ahead, you can refrigerate it now and finish up later.
1 cup masa harina
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, very soft
very warm water (you could also use chicken or beef stock)
- Add the salt to the masa harina, and then blend in the butter with a wooden spoon until incorporated. It will be crumbly.
- Whisk or stir in enough warm water to make a smooth spreadable dough. Keep adding water until you get a thick but spreadable consistency, more or less like mashed potatoes.
- Spoon the masa topping in large blobs across the top of the filling. Then carefully spread it out, filling in all cracks, and going right up to the edge of the pan so the filling doesn't bubble out during cooking.
- Take a larger baking pan and put the caserrole inside it, then pour very hot water in the outer pan up to about an inch or two up the side of your casserole dish.
- Cover the whole thing, outer dish and all, with foil, and bake for about an hour. Be careful when moving the hot water bath to and from the oven.
- Cook the pie for about an hour until the topping is slightly browned and the filling is hot throughout. If you started with cold filling, make extra sure it's nice and hot all the way through.
- Serve with the Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce on the side
1 cup sour cream
1 handful fresh cilatro leaves, finely chopped
juice and zest of 1 lime
salt and fresh cracked pepper
- Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, and taste for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to use.
You can make this with ground beef or chicken instead of the steak, or make it vegetarian, but definitely try it.