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Tamale pie

2 lbs. (1 kg) hamburger (mince) or pork sausage or a combination of the two
l large onion, chopped
2 cans, about 15 oz. (425 g) each, chili with beans
1 tablespoon (20 ml) dry oregano
1/2 tablespoon (10 ml) dry tarragon
1 tablespoon (20 ml) cumin powder

Brown the meat in a large saucepan. Remove with slotted spoon to large casserole. Pour off excess fat, leaving just enough to saute the onion. Saute onion until limp and add to meat along with the 2 cans of chili, oregano, tarragon and cumin powder. Mix well and spread evenly in the casserole.

1/2 lb. (0.25 kg) grated Mozzarella, Monterey Jack or Mexican white cheese
Top the meat mixture with 1/3 of the grated cheese.

6 cups (1 1/2 lt) water (yogurt or sour cream may be substituted for part of the water)
2 beef bouillon cubes
2-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon (20 ml) chili powder or more to taste

1 can, about 4 oz. (112 g), diced mild green chilies
or 1-2 fresh mild, long green chilies, roasted, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

2 cups yellow cornmeal

Bring the water and the bouillon cubes to boil in the large saucepan. Add the garlic, chili powder and the green chilis. Add the cornmeal in a thin stream, stirring constantly so it doesn't get lumpy. I use a whisk. Reduce the heat to low and stir until the cornmeal thickens. Pour over the meat mixture in the casserole and smooth the top with a spatula.

Top with the rest of the cheese. Black or green olives can be added for decoration.

Bake in the upper half of a 350 degree F (180 degrees C) oven until the top browns (about 20-30 minutes) or microwave for 15-20 minutes on high. If you make the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it before baking, you will need to increase the cooking time.

Tamales made for the Christmas holidays are an all-day family affair in this part of the world. The whole extended family comes to help make the masa, spread it on cornhusks, add the fillings, then fold the husks over the filling to make small packets ready for steaming. Fillings are usually meat, with raisins, potatoes, olives and other goodies added according to family traditions. Some are steamed right then and eaten. At the end of the day, everyone gets to take dozens more home to steam or to freeze for later meals.

If you don't have the time and a family nearby to help make tamales, but you have a lot of hungry people to feed, this recipe for tamale pie is good. It can be assembled ahead of time and cooked either in the oven or the microwave and it's good leftover, too, on chill winter days.

Some of the best tamales I ever tasted were given to my friends and me by the ladies in a barrio in Cuernavaca, Mexico. They made sweet tamales with fruit and raisin fillings plus cinnamon. They also gave us a sweet, warm drink made from goat's milk. If anyone has a recipe for this kind of tamale, I'd love to try it.

NativeSeeds.org for native beans, chilies, mole powders, hot chocolate with chili mixes, sweets, salsas, corn products (including posole).

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Recipe toc or browse Alamos lime pie | Blue corn posole stew | Boiled peanuts or soybeans | Chargrilled Atlantic salmon | Chocolate sour cream cake | Chutneys | Curried pumpkin soup | Eggplant parmesan | Flo Chang's fish recipes | Lemon basil salsa | Pasepa Swann's Fiji curry | Picadillo chili dip | Pie crust | Sepik River patrol curry | Slow-roast lamb | Smoked salmon soufflé with dill | Spice pumpkin pie | Sweet potato spread | Sweet rice | Tamale pie | Winter squash: acorn maple | Winter squash: butternut ginger

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