Today’s post is by our resident farm foodie – Debra Dubief
Every few years there seems to be a surge of comfort food recipe redux which includes a handful of updated casserole recipes, one-pot meals and the perennial favorite, mac ‘n cheese. Rarely referred to as “casseroles” any more, these dishes have tasty names that don’t conjur up images of overly processed foods combined with a token vegetable into a gloppy dish that’s smothered with a pound of melted cheese. Whatever you call them – a delicious, easy and healthful meal that comes together in a baking dish that will cover at least two dinners – is a beautiful thing to have in your repertoire.
A family favorite that emerged during one such recipe make-over blitz was a healthy version of tamale pie. Filled with tomatillos and corn, this is a great one-dish meal for busy weeknights right now – as gorgeous organic tomatillos come rolling off our farm. But when those are gone you can use any combination of ingredients that appeal to your “tamale” senses. This is an incredibly versatile dish that lends itself to lots of variation.
When tomatillos aren’t available, chop onions and garlic and sauté along with the peppers. Then and add ½ cup or so of salsa, enchilada sauce or plain tomato sauce mixed with a teaspoon of smoked paprika. I’ve also used an Italian inspired filling and called it “Polenta Pie.”
This is a fantastic vegetarian dish, although in the past I would usually add some leftover grilled chicken or some cooked sausage in the case of the polenta version, to appease my carnivore clan. But when I made this the other night, I stayed true to the recipe and no one was the wiser. Wow, a vegetarian dinner and following a recipe to the letter all in the same week. What could be next? With any luck it will involve Italian plums and another recipe that needs no tinkering.
Adapted from Eating Well
2 lbs tomatillos (about 2 dozen), papery husks removed, cored and quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 large cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
2 C fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1 t honey
1 15-ounce can black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups chopped peppers – a mix of sweet and hot depending on desired heat
2 T finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 cups extra-sharp grated Cheddar cheese, divided
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
5 C water
1 t salt
1 2/3 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
Optional for Serving
1 avocado peeled and sliced
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Place tomatillos, onion and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Toast corn in a large dry skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until browned, about 7 minutes. Add a small amount of olive oil and sauté peppers until soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomatillo mixture, cumin, coriander and honey. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in beans, cilantro and 3/4 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
While filling simmers make the topping. Bring water and salt to a boil in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Slowly add cornmeal, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Spread half the cornmeal mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with filling. Spoon 3 lengthwise strips of remaining cornmeal mixture over the top. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve with fresh avocado slices and/or sour cream if desired.