chipotle tamale is one of my go-to recipes. before i go off telling you why i like it so much though, let’s talk about pronunciation. i’m sure many of you *think* you know how to pronounce “chipotle tamale” but you are likely mistaken. you see, my husband and i are nerds who find it endlessly entertaining to make up all sorts of words to replace perfectly good other words (why “cut” vegetables when you can “smallerize” them?).
when changing the words entirely would lead to confusion, such as when referring to the name of a recipe, then we settle for blatantly and purposefully mispronouncing the original name. “chee-poat-lay ta-ma-le” becomes “chi-poat-el tam-uh-lay”. just because it amuses us. we know it’s wrong. and *most* of the time when we talk to other people, we remember in time to pronounce it correctly. most of the time…
ok, so now that we all know how this particular dish is pronounced, NOW let’s talk about how great it is. ready, set, go!
- it’s cozy, hearty winter food without being a giant vat of heavy cream (nary a drop, in fact!).
- it’s reasonably easy to make (and the recipe is very forgiving if you basically completely mess up the steps for making the cornbread topping. or, you know, so i’ve heard…)
- it makes fantastic leftovers.
the latter attribute is one of the main reasons why this is my standard “congratulations on your new house/baby/latest overwhelming time sink” dish. the delicious leftovers, the fact that the spice level can be adjusted, and the flexibility to sub in ground beef or more beans combine to make this a crowd-pleaser, whomever the crowd may be (well, not the newborn, but everyone crowded around the new arrival). (and i swear, it’s good even when you’re not sleep-deprived and wondering how many days it will be until your next chance to shower!)
my husband and i like chipotle tamale as written below because it turns out moderately spicy and very flavorful, without being overwhelming. should you wish to make modifications (adding corn or more spices, leaving out an ingredient that you don’t like, etc.) i suspect that would be delicious too. the only thing i really caution against (yes, i’ve learned from experience) is putting the corn bread topping on the filling when the filling is cold. this leads to an undesirable layer of not-cooked-yet-cornbread underbelly. because nobody likes raw cornbread underbelly, i’ve included make ahead instructions below to help you avoid this. and now, without further ado…
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 10 oz. lean ground turkey
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped (i used a mix of green and red)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 15 oz. canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained (i used a low sodium version)
- 14 oz. canned diced tomatoes, drained of most of their liquid (i used a no salt added version)
- 2 – 3 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce plus a teaspoon or two of sauce (about 3 tablespoons total)
- 4 oz. (114 g. / 1 cup) shredded sharp cheddar (regular or reduced fat both work, or you can leave the cheese out entirely)
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 5 oz. (142 g. / 1 cup) cornmeal
- 2.5 oz. (71 g. / ½ cup) flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 oz. (148 ml / 5/8 cup) milk (i’ve used skim and whole, let us know in the comments if you try another kind)
- ½ cup light sour cream
- 2 oz. (55 g. / 4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten gently
- in oven safe or regular skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat then add turkey, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. break turkey up into small pieces and cook until the turkey is no longer pink (about 8 – 10 minutes).
- add cumin, beans, tomatoes, and chipotle chilies and sauce. turn heat to high and bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. once boiling, turn back down to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
- remove pan from heat, add the cheese (if using) and cilantro, and stir to combine. if your skillet is not oven safe, transfer the mixture to a 12" (30.5 cm) round or 8" (20 cm) x 8" (20 cm) baking dish. regardless of the pan you are using, gently pack the chipotle tamale filling down with the back of a large spoon.
- preheat the oven to 350° F.
- in a medium bowl, combine 3.75 oz. (107 g./ ¾ cup) of the cornmeal with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. stir to mix and then set aside.
- in a large, microwave safe bowl, combine the remaining cornmeal and the milk and stir. microwave in 30 second increments, stirring at each interval, until the batter thickens a bit; i usually microwave for about 90 seconds total.
- add the sour cream, butter, and sugar to the cornmeal/milk mixture and stir or whisk until combined. stir or whisk in the egg until combined. fold in the flour mixture just until combined.
- spread the cornbread batter evenly over the top of the chipotle tamale filling.
- bake for 20 – 22 minutes until the cornbread is golden brown and cooked all the way through (check with a toothpick).
- serve immediately.
leftovers reheat beautifully in the microwave and keep well in the refrigerator or freezer.
chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are usually sold in a can, often in the international and/or mexican aisle of the supermarket. as seen in the photo above, i keep my leftover chipotles in adobo sauce in the freezer and then just slice off the portion i need for a given recipe. it doesn’t really freeze totally solid but if it’s too difficult to cut straight out of your freezer, let it thaw a minute or two on the counter and it should be sliceable.
i sautéed and baked chipotle tamale in my cast iron pan, which i know is controversial since tomatoes are acidic. if you don’t want to put tomatoes in your cast iron pan or you don’t have a cast iron pan, this recipe works just as well if you sauté in a skillet and then transfer the mixture to an 8 x 8” baking dish before topping with the cornbread batter.
if you’d like to make this ahead of time, i recommend finishing and baking the entire recipe then just heating up leftovers. it really keeps and reheats well. if you are determined to make just the filing and then add the cornbread to bake fresh, be sure to heat up the filing before spreading the cornbread batter over it. i’ve learned the hard way that spreading the batter over refrigerator temperature filing prevents the underside of the cornbread from cooking all the way through.
filing adapted from favorite brand name mexican cookbook and topping adapted from cook’s illustrated savory corn muffins.