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Chorizo and White Bean Tamale Pie

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In the kitchen

Before you leave a comment about the word tamale, yes, I know that in Spanish the word is tamal and the plural is tamales and there really isn't a word tamale. But I am writing this from the United States of America (as opposed to the United States of Mexico) and here, we do have this funny word. Most Southwestern and Southern tamales leave me cold but for ease, comfort and a good old time, there's nothing quite like a tamale pie.

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There are a lot of fine recipes but I really needed one that I could make in a single skillet and use mostly ingredients I had on hand. It was a lot of fun making this up and it was a major hit at dinner. I want to keep experimenting and see where this goes. It's my version of comfort food, but not based on anything I had as a kid. I'm calling it California Tamale Pie. You may call it blasphemy.

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California Tamale Pie

1/2 pound of potatoes, skin on, cubed at about 1/2 an inch
2 tablespoons fat (lard, olive oil or chicken schmaltz)
1 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound Mexican chorizo (I used Fatted Calf)
1/2 cup pureed tomatoes, canned is fine
1 cup white beans, like Cassoulet or Royal Coronas
1 teaspoon cumin
1.5 teaspoons thyme, dried
1.5 teaspoons Oregano Indio
2 chipotle in adobo chiles, minced, with some of the sauce
1/2 cup of bean broth

For the cornmeal top:
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup grated jack cheese
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk


1. Boil the potatoes in water until just done, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the fat until soft. Add the chorizo and break up and cook until done, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans, cumin, thyme, oregano and chiles and mix well. Add the bean broth and reduce heat to low.

3. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a bowl, mix all the cornmeal top ingredients. The batter will be thin, but don't worry.

4. In the skillet, gently add the potatoes and mix. Pour the cornmeal mixture over the top, as evenly as possible. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the cornmeal has set, about 10 to 15 minutes. After the top has set, you can add more cheese if you like. Take the skillet out of the oven and allow it to rest about 10 minutes. Serve out of the skillet.

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This was a huge hit. Next time, I'll try ditching the potatoes and adding corn. I might also try using jalapeños en escabeche instead of the chipotles. I liked the smokiness but I also think I'd like the more acidic jalapeños. Another thought was to sneak some zucchini in there. I don't think the young folks would notice.



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