Originally created 09/15/99

Tamale time



Has fall madness set in at your house? Are you ready for another season of drive-through dining and pizza delivery?

This week and next, I'll share the recipes for two of my favorite "pantry pleasers" or "dump dishes." That's what I call recipes that simply call for browning some meat and dumping in canned goods and other kitchen staples.

Today's recipe for tamale casserole is one such dish. It's a main dish that can be prepared quickly with items you probably have on hand. It's especially quick to prepare if you followed last week's suggestion for browning a large quantity of ground beef, then stashing it in the freezer.

Browned ground beef, 1 1/2 pounds raw or 3 3/4 cups cooked, is combined with taco seasoning, corn, tomato sauce and canned, diced green chilies, then topped with dollops of prepared corn muffin mix. If your family loves tacos, this is sure to be a hit.

Although the recipe calls for specific can sizes, use what you have in the pantry. For example, I call for a 12-ounce can of whole kernel corn, drained. This is an unusual size, and if you have an 11-ounce can or a 14.5-ounce can, go ahead and use it.

The recipe also calls for an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce. If you have a larger can, simply measure out 1 cup of the sauce and reserve the remainder in the refrigerator or freezer for another use.

Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix comes in 8 1/2-ounce packages, but most other mixes have only 6 1/2-ounces. If you use another brand, use two mixes, prepared according to package directions and spread them over the entire beef mixture instead of just spooning dollops around the edge of the pan.

The canned green chilies called for in the recipe don't add much spice, just a bit of zing. If you're cooking for children with sensitive palettes, go ahead and leave them out.

Serve your tamale casserole with some steamed zucchini and fresh fruit.

Look for prepared flan (Mexican egg custard) in your grocer's dairy case for a Mexican-themed dessert. The flan is packaged like pudding cups, with two flans per package.

Karin Calloway is a corporate chef and free-lance writer. You can write her in care of Newsroom, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30913. Or send e-mail to karingca@aol.com.

Tamale casserole

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef, browned (about 3 3/4 cups cooked)
1 package taco seasoning mix
1/2 cup water
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 12-ounce can whole-kernel corn, drained (11- or 14.5-ounce can be substituted)
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies, optional
1 8 1/2-ounce package corn muffin mix (or 2 6 1/2-ounce packages)
Grated Cheddar cheese for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

*Drain browned ground beef well and place in a large skillet.
*Over medium-high heat, stir in taco-seasoning mix, water, tomato sauce, corn and chilies, if desired.
Simmer for 3 minutes, then pour into a 2-quart casserole.

*Prepare corn-muffin mix in a medium bowl according to package directions.
*Spoon corn-muffin mixture around outer edge of casserole. (If using two 6 1/2- ounce packages, you'll have enough to cover top.)
*Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
*Sprinkle cornbread with grated cheddar cheese and return to oven for 2 to 3 more minutes, until cheese melts.

Makes 6 servings.