My personal take on the classic Tamale Pie
For the Masa Harina (cornmeal):
1 cup of dried field corn (purchase here)
1/2 T calcium hydroxide (CAL or slaked lime)
4 cups of water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup of water
For the Crust:
2 T unsalted butter (or ghee), melted and cooled
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup of masa harina
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
For the “tamale” filling:
3 T bacon fat (or lard, tallow)
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
2lbs of ground ancestral bison (purchase here)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 T chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground oregano
One 4 ounce can diced, mild green hatch chilis
1 cup beef broth
1/2 jalapeño thinly sliced (optionally de-seeded)
To make the masa harina:
Rinse one cup of dried field corn in cold water, remove any debris or stones.
Add 1/2 T of calcium hydroxide to 4 cups of water in a non reactive pot (I use my Le Creuset for this, or stainless steel). Combine well and add the corn to the mixture.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or so stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat, cover, let sit overnight at room temperature.
The next day (or at least 6-8hrs later) drain the corn from the water and massage it under cold, running water. Use your hands to remove the skins from the kernels. Change the standing water a couple times until it starts to run clear.
Drain the corn and add to a food processor. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and approximately 1/4 cup of water (you might need a little more) and begin grinding in the food processor. You will need to stop it a few times and wipe down the sides. It will take about 4-6 minutes to grind properly, add splashes of additional water if it is not combining well.
Now you have masa harina, it is best used immediately. This masa harina will become the crust to the tamale pie. If there is any extra leftover use it for tamales, corn tortillas, or empanadas.
*Optionally you can purchase masa harina at a local Mexican grocery store, the only downside is they are never made with organic corn.
To make the pie crust:
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, and cream until pale yellow and well combined. Add the masa harina, baking powder, paprika, and salt and mix until well combined. Set aside.
Make the “tamale” filling:
In a 12inch cast iron skillet, heat 2 T of bacon fat over medium-high heat. Add the onions, beef, salt, and pepper and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
Drain off any excess fat and return the browned meat to the skillet. Add the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, and toss with the beef until well combined. Continue to cook, stirring often, to let the spices toast, about 2 minutes.
Add the hatch green chilis, and beef broth and stir to combine. Cook, scraping up the browned bits, until the meat mixture is well combined and the sauce has slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
To assemble, spoon the masa harina mixture in dollops over the meat mixture (I used an ice cream scoop for this), working from the center out to the edges. Using a butter knife, evenly spread the mixture over the top as best as you can (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Top with jalapeño slices (optional) and add a few pats of butter to the top.
Bake until the crust is golden and the meat mixture is bubbling, about 15-18 minutes. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before scooping and serving. Add a dollop of sour cream to the top and hot sauce for a kick.
It is possible to skip the entire first part of this recipe if you choose not to make your own masa harina. I recommend attempting it at least once, it will give you an appreciation and understanding for the importance of properly preparing corn.
This recipe is versatile and you can use any preference for meat as the filling.