Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Take on a Corn Tamale

These days dining out is reserved for special occasions (like birthdays, weekends when I've worked all day, or vacations). Since we're not going out for our favorite meals, I decided to start making my versions of them at home. It is much cheaper and you can control what you put in and how much you get with the order. We spent $17 at Whole Foods for 4 servings of this meal - not bad!

Inspired by the delicious Mexican food that Rick Bayless is cooking up on Top Chef Masters (specifically the tamales), this week's restaurant dish is my take on sweet corn tamales from The Cheesecake Factory. Tamales can be labor intensive and take some time to cook. I opted for a quick weeknight dinner cheat, and bought some precooked polenta. The topping is something that we could eat all the time and never get tired of it. On the side was another favorite that we could eat all the time - fried sweet plantains.

I cut the precooked polenta and seasoned it with some smoky cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper. The toppings included black beans with garlic and onions, fresh corn, fresh salsa, diced avocado, crumbled goat cheese, and cilantro. Mmm....I'm hungry just thinking about it! This was so good that we ate it two nights in a row (and could have done three or four).
Here's how you can create it at home! I prepared all the toppings and cooked the polenta last. This serves 2 - multiple the ingredients to fit the size of your party. Another note, I recently bought corn oil for a recipe and decided to use it here instead of the usual olive oil. Feel free to substitute your favorite oil instead.

Corn 'Tamales' with Black Beans and More
Presented in the order of preparation

Black Beans
1 can of drained black beans
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 of a yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan
Add in garlic and onion and cook until softened (about 3-4 minutes)
Add in black beans and bring to a boil
Reduce to low and keep on the heat until it’s time to assemble the dish

I cheated and used a store bought salsa for this. You can check out my salsa recipe from a previous post. If you are making this fresh, chop some extra cilantro and set aside to use as a garnish.

Simple cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Remove the pit. Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the avocado flesh. Dice into small pieces and cover with lime juice. Or, if you forgot to buy a lime like I did, use some limeade (it worked wonders!)

Fresh Corn
Remove the husk and all the silk from one ear of corn
Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the kernels away from the cob
Heat a small amount of corn oil over medium-low heat in a non-stick skillet
Cook corn for about 5 minutes (keep stirring so it doesn't burn)
Set aside in a bowl until you are ready to assemble everything

Southwestern Polenta
6 half-inch slices of precooked of polenta (save the rest for the next meal)
About 1 tablespoon of chili powder
About 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
Salt and Pepper
Corn Oil
Spread the polenta out on a plate in a single layer
Sprinkle the seasonings evenly across the top
Heat corn oil in a non-stick skillet (enough to coat the bottom of the pan)
Cook polenta for 2 minutes on each side and remove to a paper towel

Fried Plantains
I can't remember where in the prep I made this. I'm pretty sure that I cooked them before I cooked the polenta and then put them in a 200 degree oven to stay warm.
1 sweet plantain, the peel should be dark brown (that means it is ripe)
Corn oil
Cut the plaintain into 1/4 inch slices
Heat the oil to medium in the same non-stick skillet
Add the plantains and cook for about 2 minutes per side, being careful not to burn them
Take them out and place them on a paper towel to drain off excess oil

Putting it all together
Take out two plates
Put 3 polenta rounds on each plate
Top with a generous scoop of black beans
Divide the corn evenly over each plate
Sprinkle the goat cheese crumbles next
Top with avocados, salsa, and fresh cilantro
Put the plantains on the plate and devour!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Skillet, cutting board, knives, spoons, paper towels, serving dishes and utensils

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