This recipe is a perpetual classic in our family and is particularly well suited to potlucks or weekend dinners made with the intention of having lots of great leftovers. It is extremely versatile--I've updated and tweaked the recipe somewhat over the years to suit my tastes, but it is still as good as ever. For instance, I think that it's equally good as a vegetarian or meat dish (hence the two different variations I've included). Also, if fresh corn isn't available, you can easily sub in one 15 oz can of drained high-quality canned corn kernels with very good results (though I really do suggest using fresh if you get the chance). —Raindrops on Rhubarb
For the filling:
Chopped yellow onions
Chopped red, yellow or orange bell pepper
Ground Meat (I always use chicken or turkey, but the original recipe called for lean ground beef) --OR--
2 15 oz cans
Drained and rinsed black and/or kidney beans
Fresh corn kernels, cut off the cobs of 2-3 ears
1 15 oz can
Cayenne or red pepper flakes (Optional--add to taste)
1 10 oz can
Sliced black olives
For the topping:
Eggs, lightly beaten
Grated cheddar cheese
In This Recipe
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
To prepare the filling:
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until it shimmers when swirled around the pan, but hasn't started smoking yet. Add in the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, or until they start to soften slightly.
Add the chopped bell pepper and corn kernels and continue to cook, stirring often, until everything has softened and the onions are fully translucent (5-8 minutes more).
At this point, if you are using the meat, temporarily transfer the vegetable mixture to a bowl and set aside while you brown all of the meat and then drain off any residual fat, then add back all of the vegetable mixture after browning. Just keep the vegetables in the pan and proceed with the recipe if you are doing the vegetarian variation.
Stir in the can of tomato sauce, chili powder, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer (stirring frequently) for approximately 5 minutes. If you are using the beans instead of the meat, this is where you should add them. Similarly, if you are substituting drained canned corn kernels for the fresh, add them here instead of with the other vegetables.
Once the sauce seems to have reduced significantly (this can happen quickly, so be aware), add in 1/2 cup corn meal, 1 cup water and the drained can of black olives. Simmer this for 10 more minutes, or until the water has been absorbed by the corn meal and the filling is quite thick. Transfer the thickened filling to a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish and set aside.
To make the tamale topping:
Over medium heat in a small sauce pan, heat the milk, 1/2 cup corn meal,, salt and butter until bubbling and thickened, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or clumping.
Remove from heat and quickly beat in the eggs and grated cheese until all of the cheese has melted into the cornmeal mixture and the eggs are fully incorporated.
Pour this mixture over the filling layer in the baking dish, making sure it fully covers everything. Slide into the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Allow to cool about 10-15 minutes before serving to allow the filling to set up a bit for more even slices.