Tamale Pie

June 22 - tamale pie to empty out the fridge
June 23 - The Boy made delish steak and broccoli on the grill
June 24 - taught the Boy's cousin's kids how to make pizza

The second half of this week has been a bit nutty.  From a lack of inspiration on the kitchen, to a last minute request for a birthday cake to planning to teach some kids how to make pizza, I've been busy and not really into being creative in the kitchen.  Wednesday night's dinner came about purely out of neccessity, I knew we needed a dinner and I knew I needed to pul something together with what I had in my fridge.  Tamale pie is one of those Tex Mex dishes that I have never had but have always been intrigued by.  I love tamales and while I've never made them and suspect a traditional tamale pie has little to do with my beloved little corn husk wrapped parcels, I thought I'd give it a try.

Based on some research, traditional tamale pie seems to have ground beef, no salsa and is topped with cornbread mix.  I had leftover chicken so that's what I used and rather than screw around with various canned vegetables I threw in some Mad Mexican Salsa Verde that was going to go off in a few days, threw in some corn that I froze last summer that so needed to be used and some tomatoes from the veggie bowl that had seen better days and a small can of chiles formt he back of the pantry and I had a somewhat sad albeit tasty filling for my pie.  Now for the cornbread part, I knew I didn't have any mix, I rarely do, but I did have cornmeal.  So I treated it a bit like polenta and came up with a topping so tasty that the Boy was intrigued as to how it might taste on a shepherd's pie, which gave me inspiration for an Italian-flavored shepherd's pie that I hope I remember come the cooler months.  All in all is was a tasty dinner that was born out of the dregs of the kitchen and still worked.

Tamale Pie
serves 5

1 1/2 cup shredded chicken or other leftover meat
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup frozen corn
1 small can chopped green chiles
3/4 cup salsa verde
1 cup chopped tomatoes - I used fresh but you could use canned
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsps cornmeal
2 cups water
pinch salt
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp smoked paprika
3/4 cup grated old cheddar

1.  Preheat the oven to 375F.  Butter an 11"x7" casserole dish.
2.  Heat the oil  a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the chicken, chiles, salsa, tomatoes & corn.  Saute until everything is heated through then pour into the casserole.
3. Add cornmeal, water and salt to a 3 quart pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick, like the thickness of polenta.  Add in the paprika, butter and cheese, stirring until the cheese melts.
4.  Spread the cornmeal mixture over the top of the chicken, sealing to the sides.
5.  Place the casserole into the heated oven and cook for 40 minutes, until the chicken mixture is bubbly and the cornmeal is golden. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.