One word before going on. My husband really hates casseroles. I am a little surprised he didn't ask to add a promise to never serve him casseroles into our marriage vows. I think it might be the fact that in a casserole, all the foods are squished in there together. He usually doesn't like his different foods all jumbled up.
" I promise to love you forever and to never serve you a casserole."
Well, though I knew of his deep dislike for casseroles, I took a gamble. I saw this recipe for Tamale Pie in my Happy Herbivore cookbook, and thought, "That isn't a casserole, it's a pie, which is totally different". Also, John has a real thing for tamales. He even made up his own green corn tamale recipe that contains NO oil, dairy, or lard! That's quite a feat, as anyone would know who had even glanced at a recipe for green corn tamales. In any event, I thought this recipe looked tasty, and I rationalized long enough that I decided that John would love it for dinner. More on that later.
The best thing about this recipe is that the ingredients are probably all in your fridge or pantry. Nothing fancy or crazy. Yay! It is a complete meal in and of itself, but Lindsey, the Happy Herbivore, notes that you can combine this with her vegan Mexican Chorizo and/or Spicy Greens. I haven't sampled either recipe but will post the results here when I do!
Now down to business....
Tamale Pie (from the Happy Herbivore)
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup mild salsa
1/2 cup frozen yellow corn
1/2 cup canned or cooked black beans
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 recipe Cornbread Batter (see below), not cooked
Cornbread Batter (note: I halved this recipe)
1 cup corn meal
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tbsp raw sugar (optional) - I left this out
Directions for the Tamale Pie
1.) Preheat the oven to 400
2.) Combine onion, garlic, and bell pepper in 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat.
3.) Cook until water has mostly or completely evaporated and onions are translucent.
4.) Combine all ingredients except Cornbread Batter in a medium bowl and mix well.
5.) Spoon mixture in a greased casserole or pie dish.
6.) Pat down firmly with a spatula.
7.) Top with Cornbread Batter in a thin layer. (Do not put full recipe of Cornbread Batter on this. Only the half recipe).
8.) Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9.) Serve with hot sauce and room-temperature salsa.
I served it with a big salad and we had cookies for dessert.
Our verdict? I loved it. It was basically cornbread on top with a Mexican stew-like concotion underneath. It was hearty, smoky flavored, and really filling.
John? Well, he didn't like it as much. It DID look a lot like a casserole, and though he gamely gave it his best shot, he wasn't the biggest fan. I'm not sure it was the flavors he objected to as much as the casserole-y-ness of the dish. Everybody has their non-favorite food item. Mine is celery. John - well, it's casseroles.
The long and short of it is, I would make it again for myself in a heartbeat. I won't make it for John probably though, because I love to cook food he loves. And just as he won't subject me to the horrors of celery....