Like I Said, I’m Cooking


This isn’t what I cooked. I didn’t take a picture before it was half gone and it’s kind of messy now so forgive me. I’ll do better next time.

I’m writing this down because this is one of those dishes I highly adjusted from the original recipe I used 20 years or so ago. My first vegetarian cookbook was Laurel’s Kitchen and I read that puppy from cover to cover. Those Kasha Stuff Cabbage Leaves came out of there, I think. And a few other tasty things – or not so tasty.

Anyway my favorite from that book besides all of the deserts is the Tamale Pie. They made it with mashed pinto beans which I would not eat if I were starving and it was the last thing left on earth. Seriously. I don’t do most beans, just black ones and garbanzo beans and an occasional lentil if I can hide them well enough. Soybeans are fine especially if I remember to soak them so I can make soy milk in my trusty soy milk maker. I love that thing.

Back to original programming. So today I decided to make Tamale Pie again. Useful offspring says “What are you going to use for the polenta?” Ah child of mine, you know I always have corn meal in the pantry! Imagine that, he was surprised I was making polenta from scratch. Since it’s something I could eat three times a day all by itself with a stick of butter and some salt and pepper, he should not have been surprised. I’ve watched my late husband and son almost starve to death while I sit happily behind a bowl of what we called mush where I come from.

Anyhow, I took stock of what I had. Diced tomatoes – check. Grillers Crumbles in the freezer – check. Onion – no just one in the freezer being frozen and I’m not dealing with it. So garlic? Yes count 6 cloves all finely minced. And then chili powder, cumin, freshly ground black pepper and a touch of kosher salt. All good. Some cheese was lying around doing nothing so I grated it for the insides of the polenta and the outside on top. I had some Salsa Con Queso in the fridge and I scooped that out and snuck it into the tomato, crumble and garlic mixture.

Let me just say that this meal was FANTASTIC. I loved it, the kid loved it, we raved about it. And we want to have it again, just this way so that’s why I’m writing this down!

Tamale Pie ala’ Jennifer

Preheat the oven to 350.

1 pkg. Morningstar Farms Griller Crumbles

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 T good chili powder

1 T cumin – really good cumin

1 cup cheddar cheese – I use Cabot Sharp – divided

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes – I use Furmanos

Drizzle about 3 T oil in frying pan and fry garlic until just fragrant. Please don’t let it burn. Have your tomato can open already so when the garlic is done you can pour them in. Add the crumbles, the chili powder and cumin. Sprinkle on the black pepper and about 1/2 tsp of salt – more or less because everything is pretty salty already.

Cover skillet and let it simmer while you’re cooking the polenta. This is hard.

4 cups water

1 cup Quaker Cornmeal or if you’re fancy try some of that stone ground stuff. I like Quaker just fine.

Bring the water to a boil. Have your whisk ready and when the water is boiling put in 1/2 cup of the cornmeal stirring like a fiend to keep it from lumping up. After that’s incorporated, stir in the last 1/2 cup of cornmeal. I pour this from the measuring cup very slowly so nothing gets clumped up.

Add 1/4 cup butter to the cornmeal mix, 1/2 tsp salt and generous sprinklings of ground pepper. Stir constantly, watching for it to boil and thicken.

Once it’s very thick, remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the cheddar, stirring constantly until it’s melted.

Now back to the skillet and stir in the Salsa Con Queso, mixing it well.

In a 13 x 9 baking dish, place first the chili mixture. On top of that spread the polenta. It helps to spoon it onto the casserole to get an even coverage. On top of the polenta, sprinkle the final 1/2 cup of cheddar.

This thing is heavy. It’s also a bit soupy so I put it on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Check it and if it looks bubbly, it’s done.

Serve this in bowls with Tostitos or Doritos. Believe me, you will be very happy. Like I asked the kid, big spoon or little spoon? We both went with the big one.