Full disclosure: I've never actually made a tamale from scratch. I keep meaning to give it a try, but I always hear about how time-consuming and arduous the tamale-makin' process can be. Though I typically love spending hours in the kitchen, I just haven't blocked out time in my busy schedule for a tamale day. I will. Soon. Promise.
Until then, I present you with my quickie version of the savory stuffed treat — my Hot Tamale Pie:
It's yet another recipe I'm testing for my cookbook (told y'all I was steppin' up this cookbook game, right?). I've made it once before, but I made too much filling for a 9-inch pie pan. This time, I used a 10-inch pan and lessened the ratios of ingredients. It's not as fancy as a tamale, but it satisfies when you don't have all day to spend in the kitchen.
Though tamales originated in Latin America, they also have strong Southern roots. The Mississippi Delta (the area along the river from Memphis down to Vicksburg, Miss.) is often referred to as the Tamale Trail, thanks to an abundance of tamale stands and diners serving up the Southern version of the traditional Latin treat. Why is this? There are several theories. Some say migrant workers who worked the cotton fields with African American slaves back in the day shared their foodways. Other theorize that U.S. soldiers from Mississippi brought back tamale recipes after traveling to Mexico during the U.S.-Mexican War.
While Mexican tamales are made with masa, most Southern folks make theirs with cornmeal, which lends the tamale a grittier, polenta-like texture. In keeping with Southern tradition, my pie features a cornmeal-based, polenta-like crust and topping. I gotta keep it real.