Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tamale Pie

Well, after the toothache we must all have after eating a whole bowl of cookie dough from the last post, I thought I would post something healthier.  I really love making this tamale pie because it's really more one of those concept recipes--meaning it's easy to vary the filling based on what you have on hand.  What makes the "tamale" part is a soft polenta made from regular, old cornmeal.  Then, the filling possibilities are endless--taco meat, shredded beef, refried beans, fajita style chicken, you get the picture... For this particular night, I made a vegetarian version filled with black beans and green chiles to pair with some really delicious Chicken Green Chile sausages I picked up (thank you, new Sunflower Market, for opening up right near my Thursday morning Bible study!). 

Tamale Pie (Black Bean variation)

3 cups water
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon chicken base (I love "Better than Bouillon" brand--or bouillon cube)
1 cup yellow corn meal (the kind you make cornbread with)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, divided

Black Bean Filling:
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles (or 1 can Rotel), drained (or substitute salsa)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/2 cup (or one small can) diced green chiles

Garnishes as desired: shredded lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, black olives, jalapenos, etc.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

To prepare filling, combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally and keeping warm while preparing the polenta. 

To prepare the polenta, in a medium sauce pan bring water, milk and chicken base or bouillon cube to a boil (watch it very carefully as it will boil over very quickly with that milk in it.  I am not sure why milk boils over like crazy given the opportunity, but you do not want to clean that mess up!).  Immediately whisk in cornmeal and lower heat to medium low and continue to whisk until all the water is absorbed and the mixture is thick and bubbly (about 1 minute).  Stir in cheese to melt.  Working quickly, as the polenta will firm up quickly, pour half of polenta mixture into a greased baking dish (8x8 or round casserole).  Pour filling over top of bottom layer (or spread over any desired filling), sprinkle with 1/2 cup of shredded cheese, and spread remaining polenta over top of filling topping with the remaining cheese.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and browning and filling is bubbly. 

To serve, top individual servings with desired garnishes.

1 comment:

  1. I should also note that traditionally, a lot of tamale pies are made with a cornbread topping. Personally, my favorite part of real tamales is the firmer masa cornmeal coating, hence, I make mine with a polenta!