I first made Tamale Pie following a 1950s recipe. The key ingredients included a can of beans, a can of Campbells Cream of Tomato Soup, 1 teaspoon of chili powder and a single clove of garlic. To say it was bland is a massive understatement.
Over the years I've altered the recipe drastically. It continues to change because I'm a compulsive recipe-fiddler, but this is the current version.
THE FILLING: 1/3 C dried black beans 1/3 C dried kidney beans 1/2 C dried pinto beans 1 medium yellow onion, diced 1/4 C chili powder blend (click for the chili powder recipe in a new window) 4 cloves garlic coarsely chopped 1 Tbs cumin seeds 2 lbs tomatoes, diced water 1 pound ground beef (go for 20+ percent fat) 1/2 pound ground pork 2 pasilla peppers, cored, de-seeded, and diced salt & pepper cayenne (optional, for additional heat if desired) Directions for filling: Put the beans in a heavy cooking pot and fill pot with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Shut heat off. Let beans soak for 10 minutes, then drain, rinse, and return to cooking pot. Add diced onion, chili powder, garlic, cumin seeds, and tomatoes, then water to cover beans. Bring beans to a boil, reduce heat to a slow simmer, then cover. Stir the beans every 15 minutes or so and make sure there's enough liquid. If it's running low, add some to keep the beans submerged. While the beans are simmering, brown the beef and the pork in a frying pan. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and spread it on paper towels to absorb the excess fat. When the beans become tender, add the meat and the pasilla peppers and simmer on low until the peppers are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. If you want it hotter, add cayenne to taste. Pour the bean/meat mixture into a 9" x 13" Pyrex baking dish and spread it evenly. Top with batter. The batter will sink into the casserole, but will rise and form the cornbread topping as it bakes. THE BATTER: Sift together: 1 C corn meal 1/4 C flour 2 Tbs white sugar 1/2 tsp salt 1 Tbs baking powder Mix together then add to dry ingredients: 2 eggs 1/2 C milk 1 Tbs. cooking oil Bake the tamale pie in a pre-heated 425 degree (F) oven for 20-25 minutes, until corn bread topping is golden brown.