Ha ha, a seriously delicious tamale pie (which happens to be meatless) just fooled 5 hardcore meat-addicts! If any meat-impostor entree could dupe our Supper Club buddies, I knew it would be this incredibly flavorful, goey blend of ground meatless ground ‘meat’, salsa, refried black beans, onion, garlic and melted vegan cheddar cheese sandwiched between hearty polenta discs. People used to freak out about this dish when I made it with ground turkey and real cheddar, and now I’ve figured out some easy fixes to make it vegan – and it passed the meat-lover test by fooling our friends.
Our friends thought their incessant jokes about Operation Carnivore Conversion and my creative efforts to get my husband to go meatless had broken me. One of them even launched a counter assault called “Operation Enduring Meat” to thwart my efforts, and they thought I finally surrendered. Not sure why they’re so terrified of meatless meals – one of them was so worried that I’d serve her a vegan dinner that she called *three* times the day of our Supper Club dinner to ask if she could bring over steak. Seriously! Instead of destroying my resolve, I declared a secret all-out war and went all devious on their pork-worshiping butts. For the record, no, I did not feel bad lying to them and telling them that I had made them my famous tamale pie with ground meat when in fact I had used “beefless ground beef.” And yes, I relished every single moan of joy that came out of their mouths while they were devouring my vegan tamale pie and every single one of their comments that “fake meat is nasty.” Ha ha!
“So you guys like it?” I asked innocently. “It’s awesome! One of your best dinners ever!” they said. I waited until they had licked their plates clean before I slapped down a packet of beefless ground beef on the dinner table. “SUCKAS!” I exclaimed while doing a victory lap around the table of stunned vanquished carnivores. Serves my friends right for messing with me! One of them refused to believe it was true. Knowing that I don’t eat meat, she forced me to take a bite of the tamale pie to prove to her that it was made with faux meat.
So there you have it, Operation Carnivore Conversion wins the war! Damn, that victory lap felt great, and this tamale pie never tasted so good.
Meatless Tamale Pie
1 pound beefless ground beef (I used Trader Joe’s version, which worked great)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1.5 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 15-16 oz can of refried black beans
1 15-16 oz jar of your favorite salsa
1/2 can of white corn (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cups fake cheddar cheese (Daiya works great since it melts and stretches), or if you eat cheese, use sharp cheddar
2 rolls of prepared polenta, sliced into 1/3″ thick rounds. This is what packaged, prepared polenta looks like:
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large saute pan, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is beginning to turn golden and slightly brown around the edges. Add the fake beef and stir until it’s well integrated and warmed through. Add the chili powder and cumin, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the beans, salsa and corn and simmer (stirring frequently) until mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Turn of heat and mix in cilantro.
Oil a large, high-sided baking dish (13x9x2 works well) and place half of the polenta rounds on the bottom. Heap on heavy spoonfulls of the tamale filling onto each round – it might end up running together to totally cover the polenta, which is fine. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Then put the remaining polenta rounds on top to cover it all, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. This is what it looks like once you assemble it:
Bake for about 35 minutes until the dish is heated through and the sauce is bubbly, about 35 minutes. (Or bake refrigerated tamale pie, covered, for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 35 minutes or so until it’s bubbly).