Best Southwest turkey tamale pie

Healthy Eating Tips… or not.

I’d like to start with some shamelessly borrowed clips from The Counterintuitive Kitchen, a new blog by my son’s wife Gillian, a highly talented (and amusing) writer. The excerpts below are from a post on “an excellent new plan for healthy eating“:

Breakfast: Every morning I separate the yolks from the whites of 3 cage-free eggs and flush them down the toilet. Then I eat the shells with a side of ranch dressing…

There’s more here, but I’ll skip ahead to:

3 p.m.: I take a baggie w/ 8 carrot sticks out of my desk drawer and arrange them in a square. Then I place a hot fudge sundae in the carrot square and eat that.

Dinner: is usually grilled salmon with brown rice and roasted veggies.
For a sweet late night treat, I skewer an entire loaf of white bread on a knife sharpener, spread it with butter and Cool Whip (TM) and eat it like an ear of corn.
While this will do very little for your thighs or other “problem areas,” this diet allows you to exude light sweet crude and have an unstoppable nose whistle…

The “late night treat” sounds especially appealing. In return, Gillian, I’m offering this wine description I found recently in a local wine shop (note that the photo I sneakily took cut off part of it):

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As I recall, it’s “driveway laced with gingko petals” at the bottom. I don’t know who writes these things.

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Turkey (or Chicken) Tamale Pie – Wow!

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I’ll say it again – Wow. This is real Southwest cookery at its most savory and people-pleasing, and it’s a blast to make – a “pie” of turkey (or chicken) with various veggies and spices, topped with a fluffy and lightly cheesy cornmeal crust. My wife made this, but it was a joint effort because I was right behind her with the camera.

The recipe comes from our American Southwest cookbook, but I’ve made some slight changes to increase the yield: the book told us this made 6 servings, and it didn’t come close. Four of us ate this to the last hydrocarbon molecule, and were begging for more. Alas, it was not to be, darn the luck!

So the following should be plenty for 4 hungry people:

For the filling:
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup diced green peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (about 14-16 oz.) undrained diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken or turkey
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked whole kernel corn
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
  • 3 tbsps. mild red chile powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. each oregano and salt

There’s virtually no “heat” in this ingredient list, so feel free to throw in ground cayenne or red pepper flakes or chopped jalapenos, as it suits you.

For the Cornmeal Crust:
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsps. butter
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, in a small bowl
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Okay, the fun begins with the filling: Preheat oven to 375. Heat the oil in a large skillet (like a # 10) over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook until onion is soft (but not brown). Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), diced turkey or chicken, corn, olives, ground chile, cumin, oregano, and salt. Cook on low heat for about ten minutes, and add some chicken broth if it starts to dry out. Then turn it into a lasagna pan or casserole dish.

DSC_0076smallThe filling simmering: my wife substituted black beans for the black olives – and so can you!

Now the crust (or topping, since it’s not “crusty”), and there are some surprises in here: Combine cornmeal and 1/2 cup milk in a bowl, mix well. Scald the remaining 1 cup milk over medium heat in a largish saucepan, then stir in the cornmeal mixture and cook it, stirring, until the cornmeal thickens – about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the butter and stir.

Now take a small amount of the mixture and stir it into the small bowl with beaten eggs, and mix well. Return the egg-meal blend to the saucepan and mix well. Now add the shredded cheddar and salt, and stir it in.

Spoon the finished mixture over the filling, covering the whole “pie.” Bake for 40 to 45 minutes – test the crust with a knife to make sure it comes out clean.

Bring the casserole or lasagna pan to the table on a trivet, and let people serve themselves!

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Don’t forget hungry kids this year! The Knox County Adopt-a-Backpack Program has reached its fund-raising goal of $45,000 of helping Rockland students, but wants to be able to expand to help other hungry kids in the county. A more detailed report coming next week.

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 There it is.

Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.