Polenta Tamale Pie & The Freezer

For the past month or so, I’ve had this tube of polenta sitting in my pantry. I like polenta a lot – and have seen quite a few recipes that include it – but just never got around to it. I really liked the idea of using it with a Mexican-flavored dish, so off to the internet I went.

I came back with polenta tamale pie. Mike is a huge fan of tamales, so I figured this would be a great dish to try. There are so many recipes out there for this, so I ended up reading through a few and just going for it, so to speak – the two links I’ve linked to gave me the best directions based on what I had sitting in my pantry & freezer.

Polenta Tamale Pie

Inspired by Bon Appetit & Eat, Live, Run

  • 1 tube polenta – sliced into 1/4″-thick rounds
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2/3 lb ground beef
  • 1 can refried beans with green chiles
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • salsa
  • 4 oz shredded Mexican-blend or sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion; cook for a few minutes until the onions start to get a little soft.
  3. Add the garlic and the ground beef at the same time – keep an eye on the garlic so that it doesn’t burn. Once the ground beef has been cooked through, turn off the heat and drain the mixture in a colander in the sink.
  4. In a bowl, mix the ground beef with the refried beans. Add the spcies and salsa, and mix to combine.
  5. In a baking dish, layer about half of the polenta rounds to cover the bottom. Then pour your beef & bean mixture on top of that. Lay the second half of the polenta rounds over the mixture, and cover with cheese.
  6. Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cover, and bake for 15 more minutes (a total of 30 minutes total). Serve with sour cream and cilantro, and a side of yellow rice, if desired.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of my tamale pie, because my husband someone had dug right into the pie before I could snap a picture…and this is one of those dishes that doesn’t look very appetizing once someone has started digging into it. But, you’re going to have to trust me on this one. It’s delicious!

You can easily, easily make this a vegetarian (or maybe even vegan if you omit the cheese?) dish by making your mixture with corn, tomatoes, and pinto or black beans, instead of ground beef and refried beans. More than likely, this is what I’m going to do next time I make this dish. You really wouldn’t “miss” the meat, persay. You could even do ground turkey instead of beef, to lighten it up – I used beef because I have some in my freezer, and wanted to use some up before transferring it to the new chest freezer!!!

I’ve had my chest freezer for 24 hours and I’m already in love. The freezer in our kitchen refrigerator is terrible – it defrosts ice cubes – and the freezer in the garage is even worse, especially with the frigid weather we’ve been having. It was an affordable necessity. I also purchased a small FoodSaver to see if that will help me freeze extra meat and vegetables better, especially when CSA season starts and I want to preserve vegetables. So far, the 2 lbs of ground beef I vacuum-packed & froze have held up well. I’m sold 😉

So, in a nutshell, that’s what’s been up over here in my kitchen. Tamale pie, and a new freezer. All while it’s freezing cold outside.

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