Monday, January 09, 2006

Something New: Tamale Pie

This is from Cover & Bake . I made a couple of things out of this book when I checked it out of the library and, as you'd expect from Cook's Illustrated recipes, they all have been very good. So I've been longing for it ever since and snapped it up when spending my mother-in-law's gift of a Borders' gift certificate.

This Tamale Pie is so good that it was delicious even when I was lacking the onions (they all went bad the second I turned my back ... okay, maybe they were a few weeks old), jalapeno, and cayenne (skipping the hot stuff in an attempt to make it palatable to Hannah). I didn't even sabotage it when I forgot to sprinkle the cheese over the meat filling until after I'd carefully spread the cooked cornmeal on top ... so I skipped the cheese altogether. It was still fantastic. Everyone took seconds.

This is very simple although the time required is significant, but quite a bit of that is baking time.

Serves 6 to 8

Butter for greasing the casserole dish
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 pound 90% lean ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 onion, minced
1 medium jalapeno chile , stemmed, seeded, and minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
Ground black pepper
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1-1/3 cups)

4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups coarse cornmeal (I had fine cornmeal and it worked with no problem.)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish (or a shallow casserole dish of similar size) and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the ground meats and cook, breaking up large clumps, until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the onion, jalapeno, and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, oregano, and salt and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the beans, the tomatoes and their juices, and corn and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add pepper.

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and then slowly pour in the cornmeal while whisking vigorously to prevent clumping. Turn the heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until the cornmeal thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in pepper. (I use a technique that I learned from reading James Beard. Whisk the cornmeal into the cold water and then just keep whisking while the water heats to a boil and cook for recommended time ... much simpler and much less chance of lumping.)

Spoon beef mixture evenly into the casserole and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Gently spread the cornmeal mixture over the top and seal against the edge of the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the crust is beginning to brown and the filling is bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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