My grandmother makes tamale pie, and when I go out to visit for lunch, I always request it. She still asks what I’d like her to make though, and I think secretly she’s waiting for me to say some other dish. The only problem is that I’ve asked for tamale pie so long that I’ve forgotten what else she cooks.
This is not my grandmother’s recipe. Like most grandmothers I know, she has no recipe. Her tamale pie depends both on what is on sale at the grocery store that day and what she has in her cupboard. The only consistent ingredient is ground sirloin and cheddar cheese. Once I wrote down a recipe for Grandma’s Tamale Pie, but since she never makes it the same twice, I figure, why bother, just start to wing it like she does.
Then, I discovered Crescent Dragonwagon’s book The Passionate Vegetarian which has a fabulous recipe for Tamale Pie using spiced, ground tofu. I have yet to make it for my grandma, but so far, no one can tell it’s vegetarian. Even my sister, who would never eat tofu, likes it, and we’ll see if she eats it again now that my secret is public. It’s incredibly hearty and just like my grandma’s recipe very flexible and forgiving depending on what you have on hand or what’s on sale at the grocery that week.
Printable PDF: Vegetarian Grandma Style Tamale Pie
-1 can corn, drained
-1 package spicy-style ground tofu
-1 cup marinara sauce
-1 can olive, sliced
-1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced
– 1 cup store bought salsa
-2 small onions diced
-7 garlic cloves, minced
-1 cup of vegetable broth
-1 cup instant polenta
NOT PICTURED: 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 2 tablespoons white flour, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 quart water, grated cheese (optional)
Begin by creating your polenta crust. If you’re feeling lazy, just buy ready-made polenta, cut it into pieces, then place it on top of the pie right before you bake it. OR… Boil 1 quart of water, slowly mix in 1 cup of instant polenta. Mix it to remove chunks. Trust me, it will chunk. After about 5 minutes, the polenta will be thick and ready to form a crust. Using a wooden spoon spread the polenta around a 9-inch iron skillet (why iron, you may ask? because that’s how Grandma does it)
Here’s what you do for the filling.
1. Start by dicing your onions and mincing garlic to prep for sauteing.
2. In a saute pan, over medium-high heat, warm up 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add minced garlic, cook for another minute or so. Sprinkle the tablespoon of ground cumin on top.
3. Mix in 2 tablespoons of flour until it coats the onions. Add 1 cup of marinara sauce and 1 cup of vegetable broth.
4. Add the package of spicy ground tofu and mix. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon dried oregano on top.
5. Add drained can of corn and sliced olives.
6. Mix everything together, then finally add 1 cup of store bought salsa and the diced jalapeno. Carefully place tamale pie mixture in the already prepared polenta crust.
7. You can place the pie in the fridge at this point until you are ready for dinner. When ready, bake the pie at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Optional, grate a small amount of cheddar cheese on each serving.