I’ve been on a bit of a Mexican/Tex Mex/Southwest cooking kick lately.
Somehow, I’m guessing that most of you won’t mind.
This happens in my weird cooking brain when I make one dish and it’s so good that I think, “Oh, I should make that with chicken!” or “Oh, I should make that with veggies!” or “Oh, I wonder if that could be in enchilladas!” All of those things happened here in the last couple of weeks but this Black Bean Veggie Tamale Pie was my favorite, so it gets to go first!
I love tamales but don’t always have the time (and and good lard) to make them. This is FAR from authentic for you tamale lovers (once again, please refer to the photo of me with red hair and freckles), but it has all of the basics of tamales in a pie or casserole form.
Plus, I like that unlike traditional tamales, with this dish you can go way overboard in the ratio of veggies to cornbread. You are only limited by how much your baking pan can hold.
Here’s what you need:
Onion, Red Bell Pepper, Sweet Potato, Zucchini, Cilantro (or parsley), Frozen Corn, Corn Meal, Flour, Sugar, Baking Powder, Milk, Vegetable or Canola Oil, Egg, Black Beans, Enchilada Sauce, Diced Green Chiles, Pepper Jack Cheese, Ground Cumin (not pictured), Chili Powder (not pictured), Salt & Pepper.
In my grand experiment of tamale pies, I have tried crust on the top and crust on the bottom. Both were good. Today we’re going for crust on the bottom.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine 2/3 cup corn meal, 2/3 cup flour, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1 Tablespoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk to thoroughly combine all of the dry ingredients.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine 1/3 cup milk, 2 Tablespoons vegetable (or canola) oil, and 1 egg and whisk to combine.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until most of the dry ingredients have been incorporated.
Add 1 (4 0z) can of diced green chiles and 1/2 cup of frozen corn. You will need another 1/2 cup of corn for the vegetable mixture for 1 cup total. You can obviously also use fresh corn cut off the cob. If you use canned corn, be sure to drain it well so that it doesn’t make the batter too runny.
Stir all of the ingredients together to combine. Spray a medium sized baking dish (mine is 11×7) with non stick cooking spray and spread the cornbread mixture out in the pan.
Bake the crust at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
While the crust bakes, finely chop 1 medium onion and 1 red bell pepper.
Peel and cut one sweet potato into small bite-sized cubes. Cut 1 medium (or 2 small) zucchini into quarters and then into bite-sized pieces.
You can obviously use any combination of vegetables that you like or have on hand, but I took the combination of sweet potatoes, zucchini, peppers, and black beans from my favorite burritos.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the peppers and onions and sauté for 5 minutes until tender but not browned.
Add the cubed sweet potatoes to the pan and stir them to coat with oil. Sauté them for a few minutes to get a little color on them, then add 1/2 cup of water to the pan and cover with a lid to allow the sweet potatoes to steam and soften, about 5 minutes.
When your crust is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. While the crust is still hot from the oven, poke holes all over the top with a fork.
Pour 1 (10 oz) can of red enchilada sauce over the cornbread so that it soaks into the holes.
After about 5 minutes with the lid on, the sweet potatoes should have softened to almost fork tender. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1 (15 oz) can of black beans, the remaining 1/2 cup of corn, and the quartered and chopped zucchini. I like to add the zucchini last because I want them to stay fairly crunchy and not turn to mush while baking.
Season with 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir the veggies to combine.
Spoon the vegetable mixture on top of the cornbread base. You can really pack them in there. Cover the pan with foil and place it on a baking sheet just to be sure nothing bubbles over in the oven.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, remove the foil and top the casserole with 1 cup of shredded pepper jack cheese. (Cheddar or plain monterey jack cheese would also work.)
Return the tamale pie to the oven for 10 minutes to melt the cheese. If you want a little color on top, run it under the broiler for the last minute or two to crisp up the top to a lovely golden brown. Just be sure to watch this if you put it under the broiler…you can go from golden to blackened pretty quickly if you walk away.
Allow the tamale pie to rest for 5 minutes before baking to set up and for easier serving.
Spoon the cheesy vegetable cornmeal goodness onto a plate and top with finely chopped cilantro or parsley.
I served this with a side of Mango Cucumber Salad. Both got rave reviews at dinner and were extremely popular leftover for lunches last week. This was such a hearty and flavorful dish that we were more than halfway through dinner before Jim realized that it was a vegetarian.
This recipe makes 4 very generous servings.
Here’s the recipe: