Before I came along, my brother and sister lived in El Paso, Texas, with my mother. Across the border is the Ciudad de Juárez, the most populous city in the Mexican State of Chihuahua (oh, how we miss sweet Stella). My mother loved Tamale Pie. She made it often and told me she learned the recipe while living in this border town. Some food historians believe this casserole originated from this part of Texas.
Corn is hitting the height of its summer season, and this is an excellent way to share the bounty. I give Maxine Wolosz’s version with this link.
10-inch cast iron skillet or casserole dish
Lard for greasing and as needed; see note in instructions below
½ pound ground beef
½ pound Mexican chorizo (Mexican chorizo resembles ground beef; do not use the hard Spanish chorizo)
1 tablespoon chile powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 jalepeño, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced (some say green is traditional; mom used red)
1 cup prepared/cooked black beans (soak and cook or, if you like, use canned, rinsed)
1 cup corn kernels, removed from about two husks
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1½ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
½ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup milk
1 tablespoon melted butter
How To Make
Preheat oven to 425º F. Grease the skillet with lard.
In another large skillet over medium heat, saute the ground beef and ground Mexican chorizo until nicely browned. Transfer to a bowl or sheet pan and set aside, reserving two tablespoons of fat in the skillet. Add lard if needed to have the two tablespoons of fat.
Over medium heat, add chile powder, cumin, onion, jalepeño, and bell pepper. Cook until onion is translucent and takes an amber color, about 15 minutes. Be patient and let the onion develop flavor.
Add black beans and corn, tomato sauce, and broth. Add back the ground meat. Cook over medium heat to reduce liquid by a quarter, about six minutes. Set aside.
In a food processor, pulse cornmeal until finely ground, about one minute.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the finely ground cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, and melted butter. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet.
In the reserved greased skillet, add a third of the batter. Cover with meat mixture. Top with the remaining batter.
Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes, until cornmeal confirms a golden crust. Enjoy with a glass of rosé or Chardonnay.