In my neck of the woods, Thanksgiving is less than a week away and words cannot express how not ready I feel. I’ve complained about this a lot on this blog, but I don’t care, I’m going to say it again – Canadian Thanksgiving comes up way too quickly. I’m just not ready for the pumpkin pie of it all. But I will persevere and reacquaint myself with turkey brine. But before I get to the bird, there’s a little tradition I do on this blog every year. I give the holiday-loving vegetarians a meal option that doesn’t feel tacked together and isn’t just a plate of sides. This is a full-on main event designed to make omnivores jealous. And this year it’s this Butternut Tamale Pie.
I’m not a vegetarian but I eat vegetarian food at least four nights a week. And yes, I do this to reduce my grocery bill and my impact on the environment. But to tell you truth, I also do it for purely selfish reasons. I love vegetarian food. Tofu stir fry makes my heart sing, bean burritos are edible poetry, and this Butternut Tamale Pie is nothing short of bliss.
When I was growing up, vegetarian food was always painted as some form of deprivation. The dishes were thought to be the lesser, sadder options on the menu. And if you were a vegetarian, you were likely indifferent to food or content to be some sort of culinary martyr. How else could you choke down all that tofu and sprouted whatnot when things like bacon and steak existed?
This wasn’t entirely based on dietary prejudice. For a long time in North America, veggie options were predictable, uninspired, and bland. You could almost taste the disinterest of the chefs and cooks who begrudgingly put them on the menu. Sure, there were spectacular vegetarian options in restaurants where a vegetarian culinary tradition already existed. Indian restaurants in particular were always the saving grace of the food-loving vegetarian. But since the 90s, vegetarian food has significantly improved. There is some honest to god innovation happening, even in fairly meat-heavy cultures. There are, for example, vegetarian restaurants in Paris now and the French cuisine is traditionally very meat-centric.
Now, as an omnivore, I know what my fellow omnivores are going to say. The classic Thanksgiving meal of turkey and all the trimmings is stressful enough to put together without tacking on a whole other meal. I hear you, I see you, I kind of am you. There are a lot of moving parts to any holiday meal, so to alleviate some of that burden, this tamale pie is wonderfully low-maintenance. It does take some time to make but almost all of it is inactive. And you can make the filling for the tamale pie up to three days in advance. In fact, it will only deepen in flavor if you do. And yes, you can make the whole dang pie in advance and reheat the day of. It really does reheat beautifully.
So what does this Butternut Tamale Pie entail? Well, this pie is comprised of a golden, airy cornbread lid that gives way to a gooey layer of mozzarella cheese and a thick butternut stew spiced with chipotle peppers in adobo. Yeah, this veggie option is anything but an afterthought. The first thing you have to tackle is the butternut stew. And this is really a throw everything into a pot and let it go sort of thing.
To make the stew sauté some onions, add your pureed chipotle peppers followed by your veg and beans, a can of beer, and a little water and let it simmer away. This should take at least an hour. We want the stew to reduce and we want the butternut squash to take on a, well, butter-like texture. We’re aiming for beyond fork-tender. Once the stew is done, you can stow it away for a night or two and assemble the tamale pie the day of. Or you can let the stew cool to room temperature and continue on.
Pop the stew into a greased casserole dish and top it with shredded mozzarella cheese. The cheese is optional but I think it adds a little decadence. It is a holiday after all. And then you can set the casserole dish aside while you tackle the easiest cornbread ever. And I call this the easier cornbread ever because you can mix it in one bowl with a wooden spoon. So easy! But before you mix the cornbread, be aware that once the batter is ready you have to bake the tamale pie right away. So only proceed to this step when your oven is ready for it.
Once the Butternut Tamale Pie is baked, you again have options. You can let cool and transfer it to the fridge and then reheat it the day off in a low-ish 300°F oven until warmed through. Or you can top the pie with jalapeño rings, fresh cilantro, and yogurt or sour cream. If you plan to serve it right away, be sure to let it stand for 10 minutes before digging in.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Butternut Tamale Pie. A great vegetarian holiday option that’s simple to prepare and will make your vegetarian guests feel cared for. Who knows? It might even make the omnivores at the table a little jealous.
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who is celebrating!
Butternut Tamale Pie
- 1 deep casserole dish
- 1 large heavy bottom pot
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 198g (7oz) can chipotle peppers in adobo pureed
- 1 small butternut squash peeled, coarsely chopped
- 540ml (19 fl oz) can kidney beans drained, rinsed
- 12 mini sweet peppers halved and sliced
- 355ml (12 fl oz) can beer I used a lager
- 1½ cups water **
- 2 tsp salt
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup medium-ground cornmeal
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ cup milk I used 2%
- ¼ cup unsalted butter melted
- 1 large egg
- 3 tbsp honey
- 170g (6oz) mozzarella shredded
- ¼ cup feta crumbled
- 1 jalapeño sliced thin
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro for sprinkling
- yogurt or sour cream for serving
For the Butternut Stew
- Place a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté the onions until just translucent. Stir the chipotle peppers into the onions and sauté for a minute more.2 tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion, 198g (7oz) can chipotle peppers in adobo
- Add the squash, beans, and peppers to the pot and toss to coat. Add the beer, water, and salt. Bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced by half and the squash is very tender.1 small butternut squash, 540ml (19 fl oz) can kidney beans, 12 mini sweet peppers, 355ml (12 fl oz) can beer, 1½ cups water **, 2 tsp salt
- Take the stew off of the heat and let cool to room temperature. ***
For the Cornbread
- When you're ready to bake the tamale pie, preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a deep 10" casserole dish with butter. Set it aside.
- Place the flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.¾ cup all-purpose flour, ¾ cup medium-ground cornmeal, 1 tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt
- Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the milk into the center. Add the butter, egg, and honey. Stir until a loose batter forms.¾ cup milk, ¼ cup unsalted butter, 1 large egg, 3 tbsp honey
- Spoon the stew into the casserole dish, leaving at least an inch of space at the top. Cover the stew with the shredded mozzarella cheese and pour the cornbread batter on top.170g (6oz) mozzarella
- Scatter the feta across the surface of the cornbread batter and place it into the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cornbread is golden and a toothpick can be inserted in the center and removed cleanly.
- Take the tamale pie out of the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro and jalapeño slices and serve with a side of sour cream or yogurt.1 jalapeño, ¼ cup fresh cilantro, yogurt or sour cream