Discovery of the day: Tamale pie

Finally got around to trying the Polenta Tamale Pie I mentioned a few months back and it was a grand success, even if it wasn't quite Project Weeknight-worthy as written. I made a few mods and was very pleased with the results.
Polenta Tamale Pie
Adapted from Epicurious.com

2 15-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1½ Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 16-oz bottle salsa (I used mild)
1 15-oz can refried beans
1 to 2 cups* liquid (water, veggie stock, chicken stock)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (optional)

2 pounds fresh-cooked polenta or 2 one-pound rolls prepared polenta, sliced into 1/3"-thick rounds (I used quick-cooking polenta)
2 cups shredded cheese (I used monterey jack)

* The more liquid you add, the longer it will take to simmer to the desired thickness. More simmering = deeper flavor. You need at least enough to keep it from scorching.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine first six ingredients (beans, spices, salsa, liquid) in a saucepan over medium-high heat, mix well. Simmer until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Add cilantro/parsley, season with salt and pepper.

Oil 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Spread (or place) half of polenta (slices) in dish. Top with filling and half of the cheese, then spread (place) remaining polenta (slices) and cheese.

Bake, uncovered, until heated through and sauce bubbles, about 35 minutes.

Since there are just three of us, I made a whole batch of filling and used half of it in a 9"x9" pan. I froze the rest of the filling. Next time I'll just make a batch of polenta to use with the thawed filling.

Since the oven time is what knocks it out of Project Weeknight contention, next time I'll try this: Make the polenta, press it into a hot oiled skillet and fry it a little to get some crunch. Plate individual servings of the polenta and top with a scoop of hot filling and cheese.

Acceptability was high -- it got thumbs up from my guys. If you love cornmeal and beans -- and who doesn't? -- I predict it'll be thumbs up for you too.

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