Green Chile-Corn Tamale Casserole

Simplest version 

  • 2 tubes of ready to use polenta
  • 2ish cups cooked chicken, shredded/diced
  • 2 3 oz cans chopped green chiles (Hatch are best, to your heat tastes — start with mild)
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 12 oz bag frozen corn
  • 8 oz shredded cheese (colby, jack, Muenster, or “mexican blend” are fine) (or more)
  • 2-3 oz cream cheese or sour cream (or more, if you want it creamier)
  • 1 tsp cumin (or to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tsp chili powder (to taste and tolerance)

Pre-heat oven to 375.
Grease a 9” square baking pan or 9×13 pan
Slice both tubes of polenta into 1/4” thick rounds; cover the bottom the pan with rounds.
Mix the chicken, chiles, onion, corn, cream cheese/sour cream, spices and garlic in a bowl until well combined. Spread a layer over the polenta, sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded cheese on top.
Repeat these layers, ending with shredded cheese on top.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, until cheese on top is browned and casserole is lightly bubbly.

It will be drier than an enchilada casserole; the texture should be approximately the same as tamales.

More complex variations

  • instead of ready to use polenta, you can use instant polenta (about 1/2 pound of dry, instant for a 9×13 pan; follow package instructions). Spread a layer of polenta on the bottom of the pan, then build the layers.
  • You can also use second day polenta that’s been refrigerated overnight; it will be a solid brick, so treat it like ready-to-use tubes.
  • There is almost no such thing as too much cheese in this recipe.
  • If it’s too dry for your tastes, add a quarter cup of chicken or vegetable stock to the chicken and corn mix.
  • If you prefer a wetter casserole, more like chicken enchilada, use a 10 oz can of green enchilada sauce, divided in thirds and drizzled over each layer. 
  • Queso Fresco is a crumbly cheese that works well; Oaxaca is stretchy and melty like mozzarella; Quesadilla is a rich, buttery melting cheese. All of them are excellent and are often less expensive per pound than Colby, Jack and cheddar. 

To get very close to tamale flavor: use masa harina instead of polenta. 

Mix 3 cups masa harina flour with 2 tsp baking powder

Add 1.5 cups warm water OR warm chicken broth (or warm water with bouillon powder) and stir into a thick paste. 

Soften 3/4 cup of lard/vegetable shortening/chicken schmaltz or duck fat, then beat into the masa paste until the paste is fluffy.

Spread paste and other ingredients in the baking pan, add layers. Cover with foil for first 15 minutes of baking to steam the masa.

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