Let’s talk dinner, again. First off, I can’t tell you how happy I was to learn that I’m not alone in refusing to answer the “what’s for dinner?” question(not surprisingly, you’re all way more creative than I am in deflecting that question, but good news I’m not above stealing your ideas and using them on my children for my own amusement). I can’t stop my children from smelling what I’m cooking, though, and apparently they have no filter so they’ll guess, and then I’ll glare at them, and then they’ll try to read my glare to determine if they’ve guessed right. Well, for a few weeks now I’ve been in search of the very, very best gluten free tamale pie combination. That means that we’ve eaten a lot of tamale pies for dinner lately, but I refused to give any of them a name until I presented this.exact.dish the other night—and proclaimed it Tamale Pie. This is the tamale pie we’ve been waiting for: a thick, rich beef-and-beans tomato filling topped with the perfect cornbread topping(not-too-heavy, not-too-light) that soaks up just enough of the filling to marry all the flavors.
Don’t be put off by the length of the ingredient list for the filling, okay? Almost a third of the whole list is made up of basic (but spectacular) spices, like ground Chipotle chili powder, which take mere seconds to add to the dish. And feel free to play around with the spices (a little more heat? a little less cumin?) to taste, as long as you don’t leave out the salt or the whole dish will just fall … flat. And be sure to read all the way to the end of the recipe directions for the notes on how to halve the recipe, or how to make it ahead.
All 3 of my children, with their maddeningly different palates and preferences, proclaim this dish “dinner success.” And who doesn’t like a dinnertime standing ovation (okay fine that never happens but maybe one day…)?
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon (21 g) honey
3 eggs (180 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
2 1/4 cups (18 fluid ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature (can replace with plain yogurt, or even nondairy unsweetened almond milk)
8 ounces frozen corn kernels
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease a 9-inch x 12-inch baking dish, and set it aside.
First, make the filling. In a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan, cook the ground beef over medium-high heat until no pink spots remain, breaking it up into small pieces. Discard any grease rendered from the beef, and transfer the cooked beef to a separate, heat-safe bowl. In the same saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the diced onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant (another 2 minutes). Transfer the cooked onions and garlic to the bowl of cooked ground beef, and set aside. To the same skillet, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the gum-free flour blend, and mix to combine. The mixture will clump, and then become smooth. Cook, stirring frequently, until melted and just beginning to become fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add the diced tomatoes and their juice, the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and tomato paste, and mix to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken (about 2 minutes). Add the black beans and corn kernels, and mix to combine. Return the cooked ground beef, onions and garlic to the saucepan, and mix to combine. Remove the saucepan from the heat, transfer the entire mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Set aside.
Make the cornbread topping. In a large bowl, place the cornmeal, flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the butter, honey, eggs and buttermilk, and mix until just combined. The mixture will be thick but light. Add the frozen corn kernels and mix until combined. Scrape the cornbread mixture onto the top of the filling in the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer.
Bake and serve. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the cornbread is firm to the touch and golden brown all over (about 20 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool briefly before slicing into squares and serving.
Recipe too big? It can be halved easily. To halve the 3 eggs in the cornbread topping, beat 2 eggs and measure out 90 grams of the mixture.
Want to make it ahead? Make the filling ahead of time, transfer it to the baking dish, then cover and refrigerate. 25 minutes before you are ready to eat, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator, mix up the topping, then top, bake and serve. The entire dish can be made ahead of time as well, then cooled completely, wrapped tightly and frozen. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and refresh in a 300°F oven until warmed through (about 10 minutes) before serving.