Tamale Pie and The Puyallup Fair

The Classic Tamale Pie

The Puyallup, yes… The Puyallup Fair, seems to still be going strong and  is irrevocably connected to my memories of Tamale Pie. No mystery or one probably very simple to unravel. Tamale Pie is easy to make, good for all seasons. The fair is in Springtime. My mother made Tamale Pie in Spring and Summer. She  had a rotating menu of dishes and Tamale Pie was definitely one of them. It was not my all time favorite. I will share that sometime before I move on from Early childhood memories. Tamale Pie as the preface to a late spring afternoon, early evening outing with the family in our Ford Woody Station Wagon, well that was another matter entirely. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It felt good to be released into the fairgrounds with a few coins and bated breath. What adventures lay in store?  I  imagined I was Nancy Drew hunting the Mystery of the missing Calf, the sights, the sounds, familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time all spelled adventure to me. My mother’s Tamale Pie recipe was probably adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and I know modified by tips from a neighbor of Mexican heritage down the block. I remember looking forward to eating the crusty,cheesy edges of the pie and knowing that each piece would have some because it was cooked in a round cast iron skillet.

Her recipe is made with ground beef, onion, peppers, tomatoes, corn, black olives, and cheese, and has a cornmeal and cheese crust.


1 pound lean ground beef

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 large green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 large can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 can (16 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained

1 small can (4 ounces) sliced ripe olives

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

dash black pepper

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups very cold water

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup grated Cheddar cheese


Brown ground beef with onions and green pepper; drain well. Add tomato sauce, tomatoes,ketchup, corn, olives, garlic, sugar, salt, chili powder and black pepper. Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until thickened. Add cheese; stir until cheese is melted. Set filling aside.
In a saucepan, combine cornmeal, salt, water and chili powder. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Stir in butter and cheese. Spread half of the mixture into a cast iron skillet, about 9 x 9-inches. Spoon filling over bottom crust ; spoon rest of cornmeal mixture over filling. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes.
Serves 6.


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