Tuesday, April 7, 2015

vegetarian tamale pie with brown butter cornbread crust.

During the month of March I ate the same meal at least once a day for practically an entire week.  I don't do things like that very often.   Leftovers and I generally don't see eye to eye.  I grow fickle quickly and when that happens I pawn them off on the guy I live with.  

But I may have tried to hoard this dish.

Most "carnivores" find that bean based dishes are poor substitutes for the meat dishes they are supposed to mimic.  Even a  devout bean-a-holic like myself can admit that some vegetarian versions are just plain awful. Trying to substitute one for one doesn't always work - to make a vegetarian dish sing, you really need to think about adding components that create that umami meat flavor.   

Kenji over at the Food Lab puts in more time and effort then any other chef out there to make vegetarian dishes that are as good (if not better) then their meat-centered counterparts.  Over the last couple of months he has become by go-to for vegetarian centered meals and of all the things I've made, this tamale pie is the best of the best.  I don't know if it's the soy sauce, or the combination of beans, perhaps it is the multitude of spices, but this filling is just addicting.  Spicy, sweet, MEATY, and all together satisfying.  The real kicker is the cornbread crust which is everything a Northerner like me wants in cornbread (a lot of tenderness and a little hint of sweetness).  To say I am obsessed is a bit of a an understatement.  It's everything I want to eat until rhubarb and peas show up at the farmer's market.          

Oh and if you were wondering, it reheats brilliantly.   

Vegetarian Tamale Pie with Brown Butter Cornbread Crust 
Recipe from Kenji at the Food Lab on Serious Eats 

The only change I made was to use dried beans (that I cooked ahead of time) instead of canned because I don't always love the texture of canned beans - do what ever works best for you.   

For the Pie Filling

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh corn kernels from 1 to 2 ears of corn
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Serrano pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin (preferably from whole seeds)
1 teaspoon ground coriander (preferably from whole seeds)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 cup pitted green olives, sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely crushed with your hand
4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems, minced

For the Brown Butter Cornbread Crust

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup (about 5 ounces) fine yellow cornmeal
1 cup (about 5 ounces) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
6 ounces (about ¾ cup) sour cream
4 ounces (about ¼ cup) cultured buttermilk
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 red jalapeño pepper, finely minced
Sour cream, for serving

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven, or saucepan over high heat until lightly smoking. Add corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is well charred in spots, about 4 minutes. Add onion, bell pepper, and poblano pepper, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes.

Add garlic, Serrano pepper, cumin, coriander, oregano, and chili powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add olives, soy sauce, tomatoes, black beans, and kidney beans. Bring to a simmer and adjust heat to maintain. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and fragrant, about 20 minutes. Stir in grated cheese, scallions, and cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the Brown Butter Cornbread Crust: Heat butter in a 12-inch cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat until melted. Continue to cook, swirling pan gently until butter is nutty-smelling and solids are a toasty brown. Transfer to a heatproof cup or bowl and let rest until slightly cooler, about five minutes.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine eggs, sour cream, and buttermilk in a second bowl and whisk until homogenous. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in reserved browned butter. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until homogenous. Fold in scallions and jalapeño pepper.

Transfer bean mixture to a large cast iron skillet. Using a large spoon, place small dollops of the cornbread batter mixture on top of the bean filling, then use the back of the spoon to spread it into an even layer. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until pale golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cornbread comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool 15 minutes, then serve with sour cream.

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