Recipe error – Tamale Pie in a Skillet

The book is Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook (2003, republished 2014), Sasquatch Books, Seattle. The authors are Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne.

The error is in the recipe for Tamale Pie, at p. 113 in the 2014 edition, saying this is a recipe that can be done in a 10 inch cast iron skillet. While there are recipes that work in a 10 inch skillet, this needs a 5 quart or larger casserole dish or Dutch oven. It is not a mistake that exposes the cook or the diners to harm.

The error is exposed by adding up the ingredients. It uses three cans of canned ingredients, an onion, a bell pepper and a pound of ground beef. The cornbread topping is a cornbread that can be baked in a skillet – the cornbread will fill the skillet by itself. This recipe is bigger and takes longer than one might expect. I use a skillet to brown the meat and soften the onions and fresh vegetables. I use an enamelled 7 quart Dutch oven as a baking dish.

Perhaps this recipe belongs with stew and chili recipes in a Dutch Oven cookbook, like Kramis and Hearn’s Dutch Oven Cookbook (2006, revised ed. 2014).

Tamale Pie, like shepherd’s pie, is a stew with a topping, finished by baking. A shepherd’s pie is topped with mashed potatoes. A tamale pie is topped with cornbread batter. No corn husks, banana leaves or other wrappers are used to make a tamale pie – it is not a tamale. It is an American chili con carne, a stew that may involve meat, beans, bell peppers, chili peppers, and vegetables. Mexican and Central American versions of chili feature the flavour of chili peppers, and use beans. American versions often stress meat and minimize beans, but there are bean free and meatless recipes. The food processing companies have been making canned chili since canning became a technology in the food industry. Canned chili may emphasize meat, or spice or meat-free. (Bean free canned chili looks like dogfood).

The Kramis & Hearne recipe is a a family recipe. It uses ingredients found in family pantries or supermarkets including ground beef, canned tomatoes, canned chili (for the beans, I hope), frozen corn, a bell pepper, an onion, and garlic. It uses “chili powder” (this normally means a concoction that uses some dried ground chilies, and other spices for bulk). The Kramis & Heane recipe adds cumin, oregano, paprika and crushed pepper flakes; also, optionally roasted poblanos or diced fresh chilis (I use serrano or jalepeno). It is a good recipe. There is enough meat and flavour. I am going to substitute canned or cooked black and pinto beans for canned chili.


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