In honor of Pi Day (3/14), I decided to join the masses (including my son’s advanced physics class) and make pie. Since I have not yet succeeded at my goal to achieve perfect piecrust, I went with one of Luke’s favorite dinners. Turkey tamale pie has a spicy base of turkey, salsa and beans, topped with a cheesy polenta crust.
Nearly all the ingredients are pantry staples. If you have a helper or are extremely dextrous, you can make the whole thing in less than half an hour. (This involves stirring two pans at once. I’ve done it, and you can too, if time’s an issue.)
This pie is hearty and satisfying, yet healthy. To cut the calories even more, you can make the polenta with skim milk, stock instead of milk, or just with water. You can also use half the cheese, and make it vegetarian by skipping the turkey.
I used shredded roast chicken (added at the end) instead of ground turkey this time, but you could also use ground beef. Use any beans you like, canned or home-cooked. Monterey Jack is a creamy alternative to cheddar. Use your favorite salsa, at whatever heat level your family prefers.
Turkey (or Chicken) Tamale Pie
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. ground turkey (or 2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey)
1 cup prepared salsa
1 small can diced green chilies
1 can (14 oz.) beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the turkey into the pan and cook, stirring to break up clumps, until the meat is cooked through and no longer pink. (If using cooked chicken or turkey, skip this step.) Stir in salsa, chilies, and beans. Reduce heat to medium-low and let it simmer, stirring occasionally. Mash some of the beans with a fork to thicken the sauce. If you’re using cooked chicken instead of ground turkey, add it now.
Heat broiler. Position a rack about 6 inches below the heat.
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring water and milk to a brisk simmer. Stir in salt. Stir briskly in one direction. Sprinkle the polenta into the liquid. Keep stirring and whisking in the same direction until all the polenta is incorporated. Once big, thick bubbles appear, reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the polenta loses its grainy texture. Stir in a small handful of the cheese.
Spoon the turkey mixture into a 10-inch pie pan. Quickly spread the hot polenta over the top, right to the edges. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top. Broil for 5 to 8 minutes until bubbly and golden.