Simple, Spicy One-Dish Dinners
Recipes reprinted with permission from Jane Butel’s Southwestern Kitchen 

How long has it been since you whipped up a tamale pie or a great tasting stew with a savory kick?  One dish dinners are so great to make after the holidays, when you have most likely overeaten, over spent, over-cooked and are just plain tired of all the work and excitement of the holidays.  They are kind to your pocket book, especially if you make them from scratch.

Along the border in Texas, tamale pies became a favorite staple decades ago.  They can be varied greatly.  Fundamentally they have a corn meal crust made by simmering corn meal of any type until thick—for time saving, you can substitute polenta already prepared in a tube in most grocers.  (Some stores even have corn meal mush already cooked and ready to go in a tube.)  Either of these are generally available in the refrigerated section of the store.

For even more time saving you can use any leftover chili, most any kind, and mix with beans and or olives and place in the corn crust, top with more corn mixture and sprinkle with cheese and you are good to go!


Tamale Pie 
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This simple, straightforward tamale pie can be varied by using chicken instead of beef and by adding more vegetables, even chiles, to the filling. 

Yield:  4-6 servings

2 teaspoons butter
6 cups water
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 (about 14-oz.) can whole or stewed tomatoes
2 pimientos, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon pure crushed pequin chile or to taste
1 teaspoon salt

1. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish. Heat three cups of the water to boiling in a large heavy saucepan. Mix cornmeal, salt, and remaining three cups of water together in a bowl and pour into boiling water, stirring constantly.

2. Cook until thickened into a mush, about 30 minutes. Before it cools, line the bottom and sides of the prepared casserole with three-fourths of the mush, reserving remainder for top. Preheat oven to 325F (165C).

3. Put the meat in a large skillet and cook until red color disappears, stirring to break up meat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add tomatoes, pimientos, garlic, and pequin.

4. Spoon meat mixture into lined casserole dish. Cover with reserved mush and bake, uncovered, 2 hours or until filling is bubbly and the topping is browned.


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