Monthly Archives: May 2012

Skillet Tamale Pie: Great as is, but with endless possibilities!

I was on the Cook’s Illustrated website looking for equipment reviews of skillets and this recipe for Skillet Tamale Pie came up in the process.  Since I am always looking for meals that are quick to prepare and hold well on warm in the oven, I made sure to put this on my “Try soon” list.  And try it soon I did.  🙂

tamale pie

Back for seconds already!

For a change, I followed the recipe exactly as written except for using whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose (refined/white) flour since, as happens most of the time, I had no white flour on hand.

To access the recipe on the America’s Test Kitchen Cook’s Illustrated site, you need to be a subscriber, but I’ll copy it here with the understanding that this is a sample to encourage you to become a subscriber yourself. 🙂 While I am copying things, (hopefully within fair-use limits!) I am going to be lazy also repeat the instructions verbatim.  The picture are really mine, though.  <grin>

Tamale Filling

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion , minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 pound ground sirloin (lean)
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans , drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , drained
  • 3 ounces cheddar cheese , shredded (1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • Ground black pepper

Cornbread Topping

  • 3/4cup unbleached all-purpose flour (3 3/4 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (3 3/4 ounces)
  •  3tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
For the tamale filling: Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the ground sirloin, beans, and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.

Stir the cheddar and cilantro into the filling and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the cornbread topping: Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture until uniform. Stir in the butter until just combined.
One more caveat from the original recipe – I used an instant buttermilk powered that you keep in the fridge, so I mixed the powder with the dry ingredients and mixed  just the water to reconstitute with the egg.

Close up to show texture and consistency

Dollop the cornbread batter evenly over the filling and spread into an even layer. Bake until the cornbread is cooked through in the center, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve.

Dolloped and ready for the oven


One more caveat from the original recipe – I used an instant buttermilk powered that you keep in the fridge, so I mixed the powder with the dry ingredients and mixed  just the water to reconstitute with the egg.

This dish is truly a winner! Not only was it really tasty, it was really easy to make. And, even better, it lends itself to all sorts of variations.  Instead of the ground beef, you can use any kind of ground meat or poultry, cube or shred pultry, beef, or pork, use up leftover cook meats, or go vegetarian with more beans, tofu, or lots of extra vegetables.  And, with meat or not, you can add  or substitute corn, green beens, bell pepper, or whatever other veggies strike your fancy.

And, I suppose, you could have a topping of tortillas or corn chips and cheese rather than the corn bread, but that would be vering off into a different, albeit also tasty recipe.

One last point in favor of this dish is that this holds well in the oven on warm, so if you are not sure of the dinner hour, you can make it early and it will be ready when you are. BUT, if you do that, beware of the hot handle on the fry pan and be sure to take precautions if your memory is anything like mine.

And leave that potholder on there!

Enjoy…safely.  <grin>

Bottom Round Pot Roast with Onion Gravy

I found this recipe in my “keeper” folder but, of course, could not remember much about it…except that both Steve and I must have enjoyed it, hence its place in the “keeper” folder.  Memory like a screen these days…  ANYWAY… I tried it again and am making sure to record things this time.  🙂

Here the recipe from, one of my favorite recipe sites, from which I worked: Bottom Round Roast with Onion Gravy

And, here is my take.  First of note is that this is a stove-top dish, although I am sure it would do fine in a 190 or 200 degree oven or in a slow cooker.  If I try it that way, I’ll make note of it here.  But, the nice thing about this recipe is that it CAN be make on a burner.  In fact, when I was about to make this recipe, my oven suddenly defaulted into Sabbath mode and only the burners were working…Thankfully I was able to reset things, but the good news is that I could still have made this dish if the the oven had remained out of order!

But, I digress.  So, here is my take on this dish:

  • 3 or so cups of sliced onions.  (see picture for amount)
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • bottom round roast (I used one almost 3 pounds)
  • salt, pepper, dried rosemary to season roast before browning
  • a sprig or two each fresh rosemary and thyme
  • 1/2 cup Merlot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (I used cider)

After cooking the roast

  • another 1/2 cup Merlot
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme and rosemary
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon flour, if needed to thicken

First, I sliced up the onion and minced the garlic.


I used two BIG onions, but in general, one onion makes about a cup, chopped or sliced.

The original recipe was intended as a very easy prep dish, and the reviews indicate that it all tasted great without browning the meat first. But, I wanted to add some extra flavor, so I started off by browning the roast in my dutch oven after seasoning with freshly ground pepper, kosher salt, and crumbled dried rosemary.

I then removed the roast and put the onions, garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme, and Merlot in the pan, turned up the heat, and deglazed the pan, scraping up the brown bits.


deglazing with the Merlot and herbs

Next, keeping things simmering, I added the bay leaf,  and sprinkled in the vinegar before placing the browned roast, with the layer of fat up, on the onions.

ready to cook

Ready to cover and cook!

I then covered and cooked for three or so hours.  I used a heat diffuser to make sure nothing burned, but it probably would have been fine without one. But do make sure you use a heavy pot! I kept the burner on low and made sure that I heard just a little bit of sound when I put my ear really close so I knew it was at a low simmer, but didn’t let it stay hot enough to cause substantial steam to be released from under the cover. Basically, you want the temperature to stay under a boil, and preferably around or under 200 degrees. AND, don’t lift the cover until you think the roast is done!


And here it is when first uncovered.

My next step was to remove the roast and tent with foil on the cutting board while I finished the gravy, starting by adding the other 1/2 cup of Merlot and simmering until the liquid was reduced by about half.

reduced onions

Look at those onions! Just gorgeous.

I then added the 3/4 cup beef stock (I actually used veal stock, but that is another story!) and the 1/2 teaspoon each of dried thyme and rosemary, and cooked it down a bit further.

with the Merlot

I took this shot because I wanted to emphasize that a good wine is preferable to a red “cooking” wine, and a nice Merlot is the best choice for enhancing the flavor of the dish, as well as the enjoyment of the cooking process. 🙂  Also, I’d like to note that the wine glass in the picture is the last of the set of four that my best friend Linda gave me years ago. <3

Next, I added the mushrooms.

adding the mushrooms

Adding the mushrooms to the further reduced gravy.

To be honest, I don’t remember if I added any flour to thicken.  Based on my handwritten notes, I don’t think I did.  But, it is always an option if you want to thicken the gravy.

gravy done!

Thick enough!

The final steps: carve the meat, add to the gravy, and plate!

This was a really great recipe.  And truly, using a good red wine was key to it being exceptional.  To end this post, I served the beef with roasted potatoes (chop as shown, sprinkle with seasonings of choice (include rosemary for this menu) and olive oil, and roast at 425 for 45 or so minutes or until done) and steamed broccoli and carrots, as shown. Just lovely.

So easy, and leftovers are even better!  Enjoy!