Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Fiesta of Tamale Pie!

Tamale pie??  OK, bear with me.  I don't always want to make sweet pies and I got this clever new Chicago Metallic pie bowl pan and I wanted to do something different.  Trust me!  One of my part time jobs is as a chef instructor at Sur La Table in Denver and recently our store manager asked me if I'd make some pies in this new pan so that the store could serve samples.  Turns out I really took a liking to this little pan.  It makes four cute individual pies with a little bowl-shaped indentation baked right in, perfect for filling with a scoop of ice cream.  It even comes with a cutter to stamp out circles for the top and bottom of the pies.  While I was making apple pies for the stores, I got to thinking that it would be great to make savory pies as well.  Think chicken pot pies with gravy in the bowl, or a puff pastry crust filled with beef and gravy and a scoop of mashed potatoes in the bowl (double carbs, heaven!!), or . . . tamale pie with guacamole in the bowl!!

I sold tamales over the holidays and still have some fresh corn masa in the freezer, so naturally I used that for the pies.  If you aren't familiar with masa, it is basically fresh corn that has been soaked and treated with lime and ground into a moist dough.  I was lucky enough to get freshly ground masa on the cheap at a local tortilla factory, but it is also often stocked in large Hispanic markets, especially in December when tamales are traditionally made.  Fresh masa is superior for making homemade tamales and tortillas, you can't beat the wonderful corn flavor and aroma.  You could easily make this recipe using masa harina, which comes dry in a bag, and is more readily available.  You simply mix it with water until you get the right consistency.

I melted cheese on my finished pies and filled the bowls with fresh guacamole.  Add a little pico de gallo and sour cream to garnish and you are in for a delicious treat.  If you decide to pick up one of these pie bowl pans, do yourself and favor and buy two so it won't take so long to fill and bake several batches.  Look for these adorable little devils again on the blog, I have a lot of sweet and savory ideas to try out!

My new favorite kitchen toy!
Tamale Pies
Makes 10

Tamale Dough
2 1/2 pounds fresh corn masa (available at large Hispanic markets or directly from a tortilla factory)
1 tsp. salt
water, as needed

Place the fresh corn masa in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt.  Mix on low speed until well combined, about one to two minutes.  If the masa is dry and crumbly add a little water, about a teaspoon at a time, until the dough is firm and holds together.  It should feel a bit like Play-Doh - a solid mass, not too dry, and not sticky but leaves a light residue on your hands.

Divide the masa in half and roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4 inch thick.  The plastic wrap should peel off the dough easily.  Use the red circle template to cut out tops and bottoms in the masa and gently peel them off the plastic, set aside on a sheet tray lined with plastic.  Add the scraps to the second half of the masa and repeat the rolling and cutting process.  Re-roll the masa scraps as many times as you can to cut more tops and bottoms.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 Tb. chile powder
1 Tb. ground cumin
1 Tb. smoked paprika
1 small onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tb. tomato paste
1/2 cup water

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the ground beef and crumble with a spoon.   When cooked, drain off the excess fat and add the spices, onion and garlic and mix well.  Cook until the onion is starting to soften, about 5 minutes, and then stir in the tomato paste and water.  Put a lid on the skillet and reduce the heat to low.   Cook about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little more water if  the pan is getting too dry.  Spread out the filling on a sheet tray or large dish and let cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.  To assemble to tamale pies, melt 4 tablespoons of butter.  Brush the butter on one side of four of the cut out masa dough bottoms and fit them into the pan, buttered side down.  Be sure the press the dough firmly into place so there are no air bubbles.  Fill each pie with about 1/2 cup of the beef filling.  Take 4 cut out tops of the dough and press them onto each pie.  Press the edges together very well to make sure they are sealed.  Brush the tops with more melted butter.  Bake on a sheet tray in the pre-heated oven until the masa is firm and set, about 20 minutes.  Turn the pies onto a cooling rack.  Repeat the process of filling and baking the pies until the masa dough and beef is used.  Serve hot with cheese, salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

The proper consistency for the fresh masa.

Roll the dough out between plastic wrap and use the enclosed cutter to stamp out the tops and bottoms.
Fit the bottoms into the pan, buttered side down.
Fill with the seasoned ground beef.
Add the tops and press the edges together to make sure the pies are sealed.  Brush the top with butter.

The finished tamale pie, filled with with cheese and guacamole.  I squirted the sour cream out of a piping bag, I'm fancy like that.


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