Let's get real a minute - tamales are okay. They're high maintenance and you could take them or leave them. That's why I still haven't tried to make real tamales - I expect I would screw them up in some fundamental way.
Tamale PIE, on the other hand, sounded much easier to me. That's the recipe I've made four times now and I like it a lot. I actually don't put Tapatio on it most of the time, because it's got a different flavor to me. More...earthy? Authentic? (I'll let you decide)
This recipe is from a cookbook called The Accidental Vegan. I was browsing the vegetarian section of a used bookstore when a lady turned to me and recommended this book. "Everything in it that I've tried has turned out delicious!" Or something like that. I thanked her and started carrying the book around. I felt obligated - she was watching me! So the purchase was actually more forced than voluntary, but I could do it for just $6.
You start off with 1/2 a batch of Red Chile "Salsa" (I put it in quotes because I don't really consider it a salsa - more of a sauce). I always make a full batch so I can make a second Tamale Pie after I finish the first, but you may as well test it out first - half batch.
6 ancho chiles (I've always found there to be just 6 ancho chiles in the bag. They are dried poblano chiles)
3 medium tomatoes
1/2 bunch cilantro
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt (Remember, it's a vegan cookbook. Regular salt does just fine)
Soak the chiles in boiling water for 10 minutes. When finished, remove the seeds if you can't take the heat! Puree ingredients in a food processor/blender. I use my immersion blender and it does just fine. Set this mixture aside for now.
Next, for the actual Tamale Pie, you will need:
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups masa harina or masa mixta (flour made from corn, basically? I found it in a huge bag, hidden in the "ethnic food" section of QFC)
10-12 dried tomatoes (I think that's how many came in the bags I typically found hidden in the produce section - 24 sundried tomato halves)
3 canned chipotles and their sauce (You will never just find 3 - another reason I always make two pies and just split the can between them)
2 cups cooked black or pinto beans
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 batch Red Chile Salsa
Cheese, to taste (It's for the pie's topping, so you'd want at least 1/2 cup - it actually called for faux cheese, to make it vegan, but come on.)
You'll also need a 9x13'' casserole dish.
Yes, it sounds like a lot - it is! But it's good.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bring the 2 cups water to a boil and add the olive oil and 1 teaspoon sea salt. I recommend using a medium saucepan for this, because when I use my 4 cup saucepan, the masa harina always comes out.
Remove this from heat and immediately add the masa harina (I don't think you have to freak out about how long you're taking to mix in the harina - just don't wait for the water to cool). You're told to stir until it's smooth. I have yet to find that the masa harina is "smooth" after adding it to this amount of water. It's more clumpy, but it still works. If you want it to be smooth, add small amounts of water until then. But who knows what that will do to the end product.
Spoon half of the masa harina into your casserole dish so that you cover the bottom and sides. I've never really tried to hard to get it to go up the sides and it still tastes good to me. The beans just tumble out a bit.
Cook the dried tomatoes in about a cup of water for about a minute. Drain and chop them finely (easier said than done - I use a food processor). Add them to a bowl containing your black/pinto beans, vinegar, and sea salt.
Chop the chipotles and add them to your bean bowl mix.
Fill the "masa shell" you just made with this bean mixture. It may look something like THIS:
Cover this up with the rest of the masa harina mix by flattening handfuls of it and laying it across the top (like a puzzle). It's going to look stupid (see below), so don't try to make it perfect.
Top the pie with your freshly made salsa (see below - that's about half of a batch of salsa) and then with as much cheese as you want.
I've been looking at foodgawker.com all morning and then I went to write this post, so now I'm really hungry! It's time for me to scrounge for some food. Enjoy the recipe!
Until next time...