Thursday, June 10, 2010

BEST Tamale Casserole

The tamale casserole that historic cookbook collector Edda Gahm brought to mom's memorial won the contest for "First Pan Licked Clean. " The basic recipe for Tamale Casserole goes like this:

1lb. Ground Beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chopped onion
2 8 0z cans tomato sauce
1 can creamed corn
1 c corn meal
1 c milk
2 eggs beaten
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 T Chili Powder

Brown ground beef, with onion and garlic. Add all other ingredients and mix. Pour into casserole or Pyrex of choice. Bake at 350 degrees until browned on top.

Like many a GOOD recipe- it is well traveled. It came to Edda from her sister, Gloria Whitley of Washington State, from a Mississippi regional cookbook compiled by the Telephone Pioneers of America, Chapter 36 of Mississippi. Bells Best. Reprinted nearly 30 times- these are a couple covers found on

Of course, the difference between good and great are the tinkering with the details. Having made it several times, Edda says, "It seems to get tastier as I add things to it."

With just a tad of coaxing - this is the rendition Edda made for mom's memorial. It makes way more than standard 13 x 9 Pyrex- As Edda noted. "This makes enough to feed an army." And our guests that day will guarantee- it is good enough the army will lick the pan clean.

couple of pounds or so ground sirloin
6 cloves minced garlic
3 Texas sweet onions, chopped
2 cans tomato sauce (8 ox)
2 cans Ro*tel (Southwest seasoned tomato sauce)
2 cans creamed corn
2 c. plus cornmeal
2 c plus milk
4 lg eggs beaten
1 can sliced olives
1 7 oz. can diced green Ortega chilies
3 T mild taco seasoning mix
Milwaukee Iron Seasoning* 3 c. or more of Sargento Artisan Shredded Mexican Cheese

Edda's notes:

Fry ground. beef on low: the onion and garlic soften and melt into the meat. Add Lawry's garlic salt and Milwaukee Iron with freshly ground pepper. Low fat content of meat doesn't require draining.

Beat the eggs- add them to milk before mixing.

This is comfort food, first. For mental health, not cardiovascular health. Use real lard to grease the pans. If you're making this big a batch- plan on using a dutch oven over 5 qts.

When mixing- start with ground beef mixture- add ingredients in the order listed. The cheese- stir some in- but save enough to generously sprinkle over the top.

Have a bit of patience. Let the cornmeal have some time to absorb some of milk and flavors mingle. Before and after cooking.

The casserole will cook faster in the 13" x 9" pans. If you go full-sized batch- allow for longer baking time.

It also needs to sit a few minutes before serving. This dish is excellent reheated.

On the side- serve a couple of fresh salsas on the mild and one hot. Then everyone can adjust the zippy factor to their individual taste tolerance.

*Milwaukee Iron Seasoning is a Southwestern run created to commemorate Harley-Davidson's 95th Anniversary. It can be purchased through


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Lydia!
I have read it over several times and still can't find the tamales! lol Is that just the name and there are no tamales in it?
It sounds like a great one to serve for a party and can travel easily.
Thank you again! You too Edda!

Hugs, Trisha

Anonymous said...

Lydia and ladies,

Thanks for the kind words about the recipe and doing what I should have done months ago when Glo gave me the basic recipe over the phone from Mukilteo during on of our frequent mornin' chats. :) Duh! I should have gone to Amazon right then and there tracking down that cookbook she purchased from a "vintage" bookstore up there. It is stuffed full of great recipes. She's used many, many and nary a loser in the bunch. I don't think there's a Ca based cookbook published in the 20's or 30's that did not include at least one recipe for this favorite of home cooks, which was just about every cook of that era. Almost every kitchen cupboard held a bottle of Gebhardt's Chili Powder, including my Grandma Horsley's. I probably was 5 or 6 when I sat at her kitchen table and took my first sampling after sitting and watching her "mix it up". Her version had a few whole black pitted olives. She had a big pottery casserole dish that almost looked like a mixing bowl that she baked it in. It was a big deal to get a scoop with an olive. :) I still have Grandma's hand written recipe she gave me written on the back of an old envelope when I was in the 7th grade and taking my first cooking class, required by the State of Ca in Jr. High for those of the female persuasion. The boys were required to take shop classes. Who wudda thunk in today's times that they were ever considered part of basic education and requirements?

Well enough of the long ago memories.

You all have a great day.....XO Edda

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Anonymous said...

I'll have to try this recipe. Sounds good. I have my mom's recipe and instead of corn meal it calls for Fritos! Really good. Thanks to E for this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting Edda's fabulous recipe. I wanted it the moment I first tasted it at the memorial.

Yes, I admit it, I was one of "the lickers!" ;-)

Luv and hugs,