The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

Tamale Pie

Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 11:28
Section: Life

This recipe originally came to me via an article I wrote for the Star in December 2005, but it didn’t make the jump to the new Web site when it launched a year and a half later. (Sharon and I were frantically getting as many animals into the ark as possible, but recipes were low on the list, and got left behind.)

The recipe is now a favorite in our family. Jenn is more generous with the chili powder, garlic and cheese than Cora was, but here’s the original to use as a basis for your own cooking:

Cora Flores’ Tamale Pie

1 cup of cornmeal
4 cups of water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef, pork or chicken
1 can of kidney beans, drained
1 can of whole corn, drained
2 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce
2 teaspoons of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (for topping)

Blend cornmeal and one cup of water in a bowl until smooth.

Bring the three remaining cups of water, butter and one teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan, stirring constantly and gradually adding cornmeal mixture.

Cook, stirring often, until thick. Cover and set the mixture aside.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add onion and garlic. Sauté them over low heat for five minutes. Brown the ground meat, breaking meat up with a fork as it cooks.

Stir in beans, corn, tomato sauce, chili powder, remaining salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Line the bottom and sides of a 12″ by 8″ by 2″ with half of the cooked cornmeal. Pour the hot meat mixture on top of the cornmeal. Top with the remaining cornmeal. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until the filling is bubbly hot.

The original article, detailing the recipe’s origins, after the jump.

In the Kitchen with Cora
Cora Flores honed her cooking skills in hospitals and jailhouses


Like many people, Cora Flores first learned how to cook in her family kitchen – in her case, in her childhood home of La Piedad in Michoacan, Mexico. But she honed her cooking skills in the hospitals and jailhouses of Los Angeles, preparing meals for patients and doctors, prisoners and law enforcement personnel.

“I eat to eat fresh, from scratch. Fresh fruit, fresh meat, fresh everything. … When I grew up, my mother was cooking all day … from scratch,” Flores said in the kitchen of her Lonesome Dove Creek home. “I’m a good eater. Maybe that’s the reason” she loves cooking.

She worked at various hospitals, working in the kitchen, starting in the 1960s, and worked her way up the ladder.

Patients can need specialized diets, based on their doctors’ instructions, but Flores was able to give her creativity free reign in the kitchen when cooking for the cafeteria. Her chile relleno enchilada casserole was still being made at El Monte Community Hospital last she heard, even though she only worked for the hospital for five years in the 1970s.

And then the hospital she was currently working at in 1986 was sold and began laying off staff.

“I saw this opening for the sheriff’s department, but I didn’t know it was a jail.”

And not just any jail, Flores discovered she’d applied to work in the kitchen for the Sybil Brand Institute for Women in Los Angeles. But she wasn’t concerned about cooking for thousands of prisoners, guards and other staff.

“If anything is going to happen to me, it’s going to happen on the streets,” Flores said. “Sure, up there, they kill each other … but I’m down in a separate environment.”

She worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, eventually moving to the Twin Towers jail facility, until 2003.

Now, she and her husband Salvador have retired to Hesperia and she focuses on her cooking.

“Once you learn the basics, from those, you use your imagination.”

She’s considering writing and selling her own cookbook – and is hoping to sell individual recipes for a dollar each in the meantime – and she shared her tamale pie recipe with the Hesperia Star.

“Tamale pie, I haven’t cooked in a long time and I haven’t seen it,” she said. “The older I get, the more I crave things.” And that includes the traditional holiday tamale pie.

To contact Cora Flores for recipes, call 949-8852.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at or by telephone at 956-7108.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks! Will give this a try too.

    Comment by Cameron S. — October 20, 2009 @ 11:56

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