A few years ago my mom gave us a massive Le Creuset cast iron skillet for Christmas. This 9 1/2 pound behemoth is over 13 inches in diameter and takes up an entire kitchen cabinet shelf all by itself.
In addition to being the largest pan we own, our enameled cast iron skillet is also incredibly versatile. Some of our favorite foods to make in it are a melt-in-your mouth bacon and cheddar breakfast strata and a creamy chicken pot pie with flaky crust. Those are good, but our absolute favorite cast iron skillet dish is Tamale Pie, a hearty, cheesy, bean-y baked chili with scallion-studded cornbread on top.
Tamale Pie in our massive skillet yields one dinner for two plus three hearty leftover lunches (for two). This could easily serve eight adults for dinner if paired with a salad. That being said, note that the volume of ingredients below is scaled for a giant skillet. If you have a more reasonably sized 10” cast iron skillet I recommend halving everything except the 1 lb. of ground pork.
Lastly, in the past we’ve used Trader Joe’s cornbread mix for this recipe which has been absolutely delicious. We haven’t gone to TJ’s in months thanks to the pandemic so lately I’ve been making my cornbread from scratch using the below recipe. That being said, if you have a favorite cornbread mix feel free to use that in place of the scratch version here!
Serves 6-8. Adapted from Cook It In Cast Iron.
For the cornbread topping…
213g* All Purpose Flour
156g* Cornmeal (I’ve been using P.A.N. White Cornmeal during quarantine)
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
6-10 Scallions, green tops thinly sliced (reserve the white parts for the chili)
2 – 2 ½ cups milk
1 stick (½ cup) butter, melted then cooled
For the chili…
1 pound Ground Pork
Whites from 6-10 Scallions, sliced thin (reserved from cornbread)
4 tablespoons Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Dried Mexican Oregano or 2 tablespoons minced fresh
Salt and Pepper
2 – 15 oz. cans Black Beans, drained
1 – 15 oz. can Kidney Beans, drained
2 cups Frozen Corn
1 – 28 oz. can Diced Tomatoes and their juice
1 cup Chicken Broth
8 oz. Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded
*I use a kitchen scale to measure out my dry ingredients. For an approximate conversion to cups, use 1 ¾ cup flour, 1 cup cornmeal and ¼ cup sugar.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry cornbread ingredients (flour through salt). Stir in the scallion greens. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, 1 cup of the milk and the egg. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Add more milk until batter reaches a smooth, spreadable consistency. (Later you will be spreading this cornbread batter on top of the chili before baking the complete dish.)
Preheat oven to 400°F. On the stove, heat a large (13.5″) cast iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1-2 tablespoons oil and heat until just smoking. Add ground pork and cook until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the scallion whites, chili powder, oregano and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the beans, corn, tomatoes and broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 7-10 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly. Remove pan from heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Using a spatula, spread the cornbread batter on top of the chili mixture until the chili is completely covered. Transfer the skillet to the hot oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cornbread is starting to brown on top. Remove skillet from oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes, then serve.