Thursday, May 19, 2011
The first cookbook I ever owned as a new bride was Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. I made lots and lots of the recipes contained in that cookbook, many of which remain favorites to this day. The first few sections introduced me to appliance cooking: how to use my Crockpot (the Olive Spaghetti Sauce sounds a bit odd but is really good), the Oriental Pork helped familiarize me with my new electric skillet, the Bar-B-Q Meat Loaves (yes, individual meat loaves) made me less intimidated of my little Weber grill. Coffee cake, Swedish Tea Ring, white bread, pancakes, penuche, Spanish tomato rice (a really tasty rice dish), puddings, pies, roasts, as well as sections on meal planning and ingredient substitutions were the basis of my culinary education. The pages of BH&G New Cook Book all have the tell-tale splatters of a well-used cookbook in my kitchen. Admittedly, some of the recipes are dated, but, all in all, I still turn to this cookbook on a fairly regular basis.
In a bit of nostalgia, I decided to look through the book and review some of the recipes I used to make as a novice cook. The spiral-bound pages are a little worse for wear, but like a neglected grade-school child, one page just fell out of the book as if to say 'Pick me! Pick me!' The stained page containing the recipe for Tamale Pie floated to the floor, the holes of the page no longer intact to remain in the book of its own accord.
So, Tamale Pie it was.
I actually have a few vivid memories involving this dish. It was one of the meals I made for my parents when they came from New York to visit their newly married daughter at our first Texas apartment. Trying to prove to my mother that I could indeed cook, I made this recipe. Not exactly Beef Wellington, but it came out fine. Mom and Dad at least feigned approval of my initial cooking abilities.
One time, after simmering the meat and vegetables for the prerequisite 25 minutes, I lifted the pan full of hot ingredients to pour into the casserole dish, and lost my grip. Hot saucy meat and vegetables went all over the floor of my then-tiny kitchen. Not pretty.
And I never lift a full pan without making sure I have a good grip on it anymore. Never.
A couple of changes I made this time (after not making this recipe in easily 15 - 20 years): I replaced 1/2 teaspoon of the chili powder called for with chipotle chili powder. It added a wonderful smoky heat to the dish that I really love. I used a red bell pepper instead of a green pepper (I'm not particularly fond of green peppers...) The recipe lists a teaspoon of sugar, which I omitted, especially since the red pepper adds its own bit of sweetness. And I used just a handful of grated Cheddar cheese instead of the 6 ounces used in the original recipe. (Actually, the original recipe calls for 6 ounces of sharp process American cheese, but I never used processed cheese in the dish.) The little bit of grated cheese helped bind the meat mixture and was enough for me, but use the whole 6 ounces if it appeals to you.
Retro cooking. Ya gotta love it!
1 pound ground chuck
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1-1/2 cups corn (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup pitted ripe olives, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
Dash black pepper
6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon butter
Cook meat, onion, and bell pepper in a large skillet until meat is lightly browned and vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato sauce, corn, olives, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, chili powders, and black pepper. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until thick. Stir in cheese. Turn into a greased 9x9x2-inch baking dish.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Stir cornmeal and 1/2 teaspoon salt into cold water. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Add butter, and mix well. Spoon cornmeal mixture over hot meat mixture.
Bake 40 minutes.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, copyright 1968