Adapted from The New Laurel’s Kitchen (1986) by Laurel Flinders, Carol Robertson, and Bronwen Godfrey. Tamale Pie is a vegetarian dish that doesn’t result in feelings of deprivation among meat-eaters. Double this recipe because it’s even better left over.
If you choose to use canned beans, remember that each can contains about 1 1/2 cups of beans, drained. So for a single recipe, you would need all of the beans in one can plus another half cup from a second can.
If you double the recipe and use canned beans, just use drained beans from 3 cans. It’s a little more than the recipe calls for (4 1/2 cups rather than 4 cups) but it will work.
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin
2 cups cooked pinto or kidney beans
1 teaspoon salt (less if beans were salted already)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup ripe olives, chopped
½ cup fresh or frozen corn niblets
½ green pepper, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
(You will be tempted to leave out the last 4 ingredients, especially if you don’t have them in your larder, but don’t because Tamale Pie is much better with the olives, corn, pepper, and celery).
3 cups boiling water
1 cup polenta
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup grated cheddar or jack cheese (more if desired)
Saute onion and garlic in oil. When nearly soft, add chili powder and cumin and crush garlic with a fork. Continue to cook and stir until spices are fragrant. Meantime, mash beans and mix them and the tomato paste into the onion, along with the other filling ingredients. When hot, adjust seasonings and set aside.
Stir polenta slowly into boiling water. Cook and stir until thick, adding the salt and chili powder once the mixture comes to a boil
Grease an 8” x 8” pan (9″ x 13″ if you are doubling the recipe) and spread two-thirds of the polenta mixture over the bottom and sides. Pour the bean mixture into this polenta crust and drop and spread the remaining third of the polenta on the top. Don’t worry if it doesn’t cover completely. Sprinkle the top crust with grated cheddar cheese and cook in a 350°F oven for half an hour.
Serves 4 generously.