March 21st, 2012

Tamale Shepherd’s Pie

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Serves 8
Time: 1 hour || Active time: 30 minutes

Tamale Shepherds Pie

Who among us doesn’t love mashed potatoes? Add something spicy, savory and stewy bubbling underneath and it pretty much takes that love over the top and into creepy obsession territory.

Since I’m about to make my first ever foray into the Lone Star State at next weekend’s Texas VegFest in Austin, I was feeling kinda’ Tex-Mex this week. Enter tamale pie! Well, almost. I realized that I was too low on my masa harina to execute a real tamale pie, but what I lacked in corn flour I made up for in potatoes. And thus the Tamale Shepherd’s Pie was born!

A creamy layer of lime-kissed mashed red potatoes over a succulent and spicy stew of black beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, poblano peppers and corn, with a few of the usual southwestern flavors thrown in. To give it true tamale flavor, a few handfuls of crumbled up tortilla chips tossed into the stew do the trick. It’s the perfect meal for these rainy months at the beginning of Spring. I love how the red potatoes look on top, adding flecks of pretty blush. It makes a ton, too, and leftovers taste just as good.

Recipe notes:
To get this done quickly, boil the potatoes first. Then begin the stew. Both components should come together within half an hour and then you just bake and wait. You can adjust the spice level to your liking by (obviously) adjusting the hot sauce and red pepper flakes. As is, I’d say it’s a low-medium spicy. Don’t forget to preheat the oven right about when you add the tomatoes and corn to the stew, that way everything is ready to go.

OK everyone, enjoy and I’ll see you in Texas!

For the mashed potato layer:
2 1/2 lbs unpeeled red potatoes, cut into big chunks (1 1/2 inches or so)
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 scant teaspoon grated lime zest
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

For the stew:
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra)
1 onion, diced medium
1 poblano pepper, seeded, diced medium
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms, cut in half and sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
1 cup lightly packed cilantro, chopped
1 1/4 lbs plum tomatoes (about 6), chopped
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 ounces tortilla chips (about 4 good-sized handfuls)
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons Frank’s red hot hot sauce (plus extra for serving)
3 cups cooked black beans (2 15 oz cans rinsed and drained)

I garnished with: Hot red chilis, fresh cilantro and lime slices

Tamale Shepherds Pie

Place potatoes in a pot and submerge in salted water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.

Drain potatoes and immediately transfer them back into the pot. It’s important to do this while everything is still hot. Give them a quick preliminary mash, then add the milk, olive oil, lime zest and salt. Mash until creamy, taste for salt, then cover and set aside. (Note: I usually add black pepper, but decided not to here so that the lime really shines through. If you feel naked without it, though, go ahead and add some.)

To prepare the stew:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Saute onion and pepper in olive oil and a pinch of salt, until peppers are softened, about 10 minutes. In the meantime prep all your other ingredients.

Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add mushrooms and cilantro and cook until the mushrooms have released a lot of moisture, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, corn, wine, salt, cumin and red pepper flakes. Turn heat up and cover the pan, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. The tomatoes should break down and become saucy (if corn was frozen it may take a bit longer.)

Now take the tortilla chips and crush them into fine crumbs with your hands. It’s ok if there are a few bigger pieces, but aim for crumbs. Add them to the stew and mix well. Since tortillas can be salty, wait until they’re added to taste for salt. Mix in the lime juice and hot sauce, then fold in the black beans and heat through. Now taste for salt and seasonings.

To assemble:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a deep 11×13 casserole (cooking spray works just fine). Transfer the stew to the casserole and even it out with a spatula. Add the potatoes in dollops, and spread it into an even layer.

Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until potatoes are lightly browned. Stick under the broiler for a minute or two just in case the browning isn’t happening. Serve hot garnished with cilantro, chili peppers and lime.

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