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WTF Saveur: Tamale Tart?????

Caralien Jun 21, 2009 04:18 PM

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. c oliver RE: Caralien Jun 21, 2009 04:32 PM

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

    1. buttertart RE: Caralien Jun 22, 2009 10:59 AM

      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. Scargod RE: Caralien Jun 22, 2009 01:16 PM

        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. LeroyT RE: Caralien Jun 28, 2009 11:42 AM

          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. chef chicklet RE: Caralien Jun 30, 2009 12:51 AM

            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. Melanie Wong RE: Caralien Jun 30, 2009 12:17 PM

              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
                Caralien RE: Melanie Wong Jun 30, 2009 07:41 PM

                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
                  Melanie Wong RE: Caralien Jun 30, 2009 07:56 PM

                  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
                  chef chicklet RE: Melanie Wong Jun 30, 2009 07:52 PM

                  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
                    Melanie Wong RE: chef chicklet Jun 30, 2009 08:02 PM

                    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
                      Caralien RE: Melanie Wong Jun 30, 2009 08:07 PM

                      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
                    JasmineG RE: Melanie Wong Jun 30, 2009 10:54 PM

                    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. g
                    ginael RE: Caralien Jun 30, 2009 09:57 PM


                    The singular is tamal not "Tamale"

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: ginael
                      Scargod RE: ginael Jul 3, 2009 01:20 PM

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

                      1. re: Scargod
                        Mawrter RE: Scargod Jul 11, 2009 11:08 AM

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

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

                      2. re: ginael
                        bbqboy RE: ginael Jul 4, 2009 10:49 AM

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

                        1. re: ginael
                          Scargod RE: ginael Jul 12, 2009 12:23 PM

                          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
                            Melanie Wong RE: Scargod Jul 12, 2009 02:03 PM

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

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                              Scargod RE: Melanie Wong Jul 12, 2009 02:28 PM

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

                              1. re: Scargod
                                Melanie Wong RE: Scargod Jul 12, 2009 03:48 PM

                                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
                                  paulj RE: Melanie Wong Jul 12, 2009 04:06 PM

                                  '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
                                    paulj RE: Melanie Wong Jul 12, 2009 04:13 PM

                                    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. c
                            caseys RE: Caralien Jul 4, 2009 06:12 PM

                            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
                              paulj RE: caseys Jul 7, 2009 10:22 AM

                              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
                                Scargod RE: caseys Jul 7, 2009 11:10 AM

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

                              2. Mawrter RE: Caralien Jul 11, 2009 11:13 AM

                                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.

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