Why It Works
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder per pound of masa flour makes a dough that's light, without any noticeable baking-soda flavor.
- Resting the masa for 1 hour helps hydrate the starch, creating a more tender dough.
Tamales are delicious, but forming them is a small pain in the culo. This baked tamale pie, know as a tamal de cazuela in Mexico, is the solution: all the joys of tamales with not nearly as much work.
- For the Masa:
- 1 pound (3 cups) masa harina para tamales (see note)
- 3 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock or water
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup) cold lard or Crisco
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- For the Filling (see note):
- 2 ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 cups cooked black beans (from four 15-ounce cans or 2/3 pound dried black beans simmered until tender)
- Kosher salt
- Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil, for greasing
- Hot sauce and salsa verde, for serving
In a large mixing bowl, combine masa harina and broth.
Stir until thoroughly incorporated.
Combine lard, salt, and baking powder and, using an electric mixer, beat at medium-high speed until lightly whipped, about 1 minute.
Add 1/4 of the re-hydrated masa at a time to the lard, beating between additions until thoroughly incorporated. The masa should be soft and spreadable, with a hummus-like texture.
Cover masa with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, For the Filling: Microwave ancho chilies until fragrant and pliable, 15 to 30 seconds. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, add broth, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until barely simmering, about 3 minutes. Let steep for at least 5 minutes. Using a blender or immersion blender, blend until smooth.
In a skillet, heat lard over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add beans and cook until heated through. Using a potato masher, bean masher, or wooden spoon, mash beans to form a chunky puree. Stir in ancho mixture and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Assembly and Baking: Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove masa from refrigerator, discard plastic, and re-whip, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to return it to original hummus-like texture. Lightly grease a 12-inch cast iron skillet or 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray or oil, wiping up any excess.
Scrape 2/3 of masa into skillet and press to form an even thin layer on bottom and edge of pan.
Add 2 cups of black bean filling, smoothing to an even layer. Save any remaining filling for another use.
Gently form a top crust with remaining 1/3 masa, binding it with edge.
Wipe any masa residue from rim of skillet. Bake tamale pie until cooked through and lightly golden on top, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool slightly, then slice and serve, passing hot sauce and salsa verde at the table.
Electric mixer, blender, 12-inch cast iron skillet or 3-quart casserole dish
Masa harina para tamales (dried nixtamalized masa flour for tamales) is available at well-stocked grocers in the international of Latin foods aisle. Any filling can be used in this pie; just substitute the beans here with 2 cups of a Mexican braise, chili, or stewed vegetables. If using a meat, make sure it is shredded or ground, since large chunks of meat won't make an even layer of filling.