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WTF Saveur: Tamale Tart?????

I have to rant.

First, I hate the way the recipes are split after the first 2 lines onto another page past an advertisement (minimally, have a 2-sided page with advertisements so I can pull the page out and see the full recipe without turning a page).

Then there's this tart. While I'm sure it's tasty, it has nothing to do with a tamale. Tex Mex Crab Quiche, perhaps, but it's not a tamale.

It's a masa shelled quiche with a garlic custard (which somehow replaced venison chile?) and topped with crab.

What does this have to do with a tamale?

(Saveur Issue 121, Texas Issue, July 2009, pgs. 84/86 & 104)

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  1. I haven't seen this but it makes me shiver -------------- and not in a good way. Bleh.

    1. I also thought this looked not terribly appealing. The fact that it's steamed really didn't do it for me. Tried a few of the other recipes in the issue - the chili, the cabbage salad, and the cornbread - and all were definite keepers.

      1. I don't see the problem. Open-faced, naked tamale. Deconstructed tamale. I'm not sure about the garlic custard with crab. I think I might use a different pairing.

        1. wasn't it presented as a Stephen Pyles classic dish? Keep in mind that it's from the late 80s or early 90s, and he was somewhat of a pioneer in upscale southwestern cuisine back then. I think Scargod's post says it pretty well. That said, it doesn't make my mouth water.

          1. I am with you, where did they get that there is a tamale involved?
            I can imagine this as a nice brunch item, as a quiche like you say. I'm also looking for the sauce, where is the sauce? Give me the real tamale.

            1. Oh you youngsters were never subjected to that staple of PTA potlucks in the 60s, tamale pie. Cornmeal bottom, dump tomato sauce on, lots of cheese, canned corn niblets, maybe some onions and bell peppers, and ground beef, top with sour cream.

              Here's Saveur's recipe.

              6 Replies
              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I guess I'm a youngster then. My basic idea is that a tamale should be with cornmeal, tomatoes, and marinated lmeat. The saveur recipe for this one had none. It was a custard topped quiche with crab.

                1. re: Caralien

                  I've next to never had tomatoes in tamales made by Mexican grandmothers. The sauce is often based on chili peppers and not tomatoes. The meats aren't marinated but bathed in mole or other sauce. Many tamales do not have meat in them.

                  Looking at the recipe, the ingredients for the tart shell would make a nice masa for tamales. Better than the ol' tamale pie of yore.

                  Btw, tamal is the correct singular form.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  Too funny. I made tamale pie, I actually love it providing it has all the fresh vegetables to go with it, and the tamale is moist. Dry, no thanks.

                  Ok, now here's a perfect dish to resurrect. So many ways to go with it. Tomatillo sauce, seafood, mole, etc... Freshen and update it with fresh produce and a nice polenta/tamale mix. I appreciate the coleslaw experiment but this would be fun for me.

                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    I'm more about the steamed custardy texture of the masa, so a baked tamale pie never did it for me. But I'm glad to hear that you can relate.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      this was a steamed tamale pie per the saveur recipe. I still am not convinced, but will let this beast rest.

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    Thank goodness you said this, I was reading all of the previous comments thinking "No one has ever had tamale pie???" My mom used to make this all the time (and this was in the 80s). Total comfort food, if, you know, not exactly tamale like.

                  3. Tamal.

                    The singular is tamal not "Tamale"

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: ginael

                      We're not getting into the grits "is or are" thang are we?

                      1. re: Scargod

                        I always thought "grits" was a mass noun, no?

                        (Not a Southerner - I don't really *know* grits.)

                      2. re: ginael

                        so it should be a Tamal Pie, not a Tamale Pie? :)

                        1. re: ginael

                          According to Wikipedia, "tamal" is the pronunciation of the Nahuatl dialect (Aztecan) mostly spoken in scattered communities in rural areas of Central Mexico.
                          AFAIK, tamal is not the singular of tamale.

                          1. re: Scargod

                            Tamales is the plural of tamal, as noted in my post of June 30. One tamal, two tamales.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              OK. Then what is tamale? A figment of our imagination?

                              1. re: Scargod

                                Tamale is what non-Spanish/Mexican/Nahuatl speakers assume is the singular of "tamales", and it has become common gringo usage. The correct word is tamal, not tamale, try checking Spanish grammar rules for words ending in a consonant.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  'One tamale' or 'a tamale' is fine, 'un tamal' is also fine, but not 'un tamale'. In other words, are we using English or Spanish?

                                  Note that English wiki has entry for tamale

                                  Spanish wiki has an entry for Tamal

                                  A similar item in parts of South America is call 'humita', derived from Quechua.

                                  Also the Spanish wiki page renders the Nahuatl word as 'tamalli' . Who is closer to that, English or Spanish?

                                  Don't get too hung up over word endings and plurals v singulars. As words move from language to language they change. Some languages accept foreign plurals and endings, others insist on making them conform to their own grammatical standards. English tends to do some of both, as shown by the endless debates over Italian culinary borrowings.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    Spanish wiki lists a whole bunch of alternative terms to tamal in Mexico. Some may be borrowings from other Native languages (of which there are dozens, if not hundreds). 'k','x','w' sounds are not common in Spanish words.

                                    pata de burro, (donkey foot)
                                    chak chak wah,
                                    buulil wa,
                                    kehil uah,
                                    canarios, (Canary Islands? derived from Latin for dog)
                                    la torta de tamal, (tamal pie or cake)
                                    bolillo (pan),
                                    guajolotas. (turkeys?)

                          2. It is a recipe from Stephen Pyle's restaurants that he has served and highly regarded for years. It is perhaps a misnomer in that all it has to do with a tamale is the masa crust but it is none the less delicious at his restaurant.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: caseys

                              Linked to the recipe is a page that describes how this evolved from Pyle's original - including the switch from baking to steaming, and the change from chili to garlic custard. Supposedly the changes bring it closer to traditional steamed tamales. The original was more of a spin on Frito pie. This is an experienced Dallas chef's creation. Don't get hung up over the name.


                              1. re: caseys

                                Had the opportunity to eat numerous times at Star Canyon in the 1996-'98 era and then at Ama Lur. What a genius.

                              2. The Tamale Tart didn't revolt me the way it did you, but then I'm not deep on Mexican food and don't even have the requisite knowledge to be a purist about it.

                                But the "improvements" with the new magazine format are driving me crazy, too! I hate it! I still am not over the last "improvements" (font change, adding some departments/dumping others, etc.) from ten or so years ago, which I hated, too. Saveur got it right the first time, and I wish they'd quit tampering with it! I still love the magazine... but all change is not improvement. Gah.