I don’t know what it is about Sundays but occasionally I seem to develop a sub-clinical case of the blues, malaise or more aptly called, “Punky Monkey Face.” The funny thing is that after a week of rain storms the sun finally broke out long and loud enough for me to spend some much needed time working in the garden. A clip here, a weed pull there and now I hope no punky monkey faces from my neighbors. A good day except . . .
Suzanne, gracious as always, said that I, “. . . merely seemed quiet.” She did all those things a good friend does: Drove me to Napa with the top down, bought me a beer and found us a table in the sun, told me jokes and talked food to me. Still punky monkey me until, we started to discuss dinner. She wanted to make fresh pasta with scallops in a beurre blanc which I normally would leap at but I just wasn’t feeling it. I need something more . . . comfort-ish. I mentioned a hankering for Tamale Pie and she jumped at the idea. Instantly my mood changed. Tamale pie was one of my sainted mother’s go-to recipes growing up. Suzanne, with her background in healthy cooking, initially winced at the thought of using canned ingredients but reasonably justified their inclusion due to the lack of seasonal fresh ingredients.
Back at home I tucked in tight to my favorite saute pan and added diced onions and garlic to a “reserved’ splash of olive oil. (Suzanne’s style is beginning to rub off on me.) To that I added Ancho and Arbol chili powders and a healthy bit of paprika and let them all cook together until the aroma of roasted chili filled the kitchen. Next, some ground beef and pork sausage, because I like meat. After a bit of browning I placed all this into mom’s terra cotta pot she got as a wedding gift, and forever the proper dish for tamale pie. Next I saute’d canned beans, black and pinto; canned tomatoes, drained; and frozen corn (no salt, another concession to Chef Suzanne) and a bit more onion. After about 15 minutes of flipping with salt and pepper on high heat I stirred it in with the meat mixture, topped it off with a corn bread recipe I have and popped it in to a 350 F degree oven for an hour. A bubbling good time.
Can’t tell you what a mood elevator Tamale Pie is. Smiled and laughed while cooking, and the rest of the night too. Never underestimate the health benefits of mother’s comfort food.
Eat well and smile often!