I know, I know. I keep writing about it—the surprise factor of dinner. Or maybe I keep talking about it every other post on Instagram. We’re getting to that point in our relationship when I can’t remember what I’ve told you. But every day come 5, I’m shocked that it’s dinner time. Again. Didn’t I just finish cleaning last night’s dishes? I’ve tried meal planning, but since it’s not a permanent fixture in my calendar, it only takes a week or two to lose steam. And thinking about the whole week in advance gives me hives. I’m a one-day-at-a-time girl, which works quite well until 5:00 pm.
This post was created in an ongoing partnership with Muir Glen Organic. Muir Glen harvests organic tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. Tomatoes go from field to can in 8 hours or less. When I shop for canned tomatoes, I stock my pantry with Muir Glen. Of course, all opinions/endorsements are my own.
A Couple Cooks gave me a call on their latest podcast about canned tomatoes (which will always be a major honor). I talked about how they’re my lifeline for quick weeknight pantry dinners and shared some of my favorite quick recipes. You can find the latest podcast here. But at the very end, Sonja asked me who I liked to cook for besides Hal, my three year old sous chef. I couldn’t recall the last time our table, big enough to fit 8 people with knees touching, was full. Three years into parenthood, and I’ve yet to figure out dinner time, especially the kind of dinners that involve thinking ahead and inviting friends over.
I’m learning to acknowledge and accept seasons of life—that this one will look different than the last one and the next one. But my biggest worry is that I won’t be able to shift with the seasons when they shift. That my patterns will run so deep with a layer of cement on top. Will I remember how to cook for friends on a regular basis?
I can’t cook the long way like I used to before having friends over for dinner. So in the meantime, I’m trying to trick myself into cheating—making way more than we need and freezing the extras—so we can actually invite people over to a homemade meal. That’s how this dish came about. I had a batch of sautéed peppers, onions, kale, and beans in the freezer. In a typical night of desperation, I pulled out the bag, made a quick enchilada sauce and topped it with a layer of masa. There was no time to shape and cook arepas or stuff corn husks to make tamales, which is what I really wanted.
So I deconstructed my craving and did what moms do best—made a casserole which I’m calling a “bake” because my ego is still bruised from not being able to get a good hold on dinner. This “bake” is a cross between tamales, arepas, and enchiladas. Sautéed butternut squash, kale, and black beans sit underneath a layer of precooked corn meal (P.A.N.). It’s topped with a quick enchilada sauce made from Muir Glen organic tomatoes, chipotle peppers, and a secret ingredient (unsweetened chocolate!). It comes together as fast as you can pour everything into a blender and blitz. Even if you don’t make this bake, at least make this enchilada sauce. It’s best served with a single serving margarita and the “Spanish Guitar” station streaming from Pandora.
As with all latin-inspired dishes, I love the tango between the spicy and sweet flavors. This bake does that well. The chipotle and unsweetened chocolate powder lend a mole-like flavor to the quick enchilada sauce too. Aside from the vegetable prep, this bake comes together easy. See notes for make-ahead prep.
Make enchilada sauce. In a high-powered blender or food processor, add all enchilada ingredients. Blitz until smooth. Set aside.
Make the filling. Chop the butternut squash into 1/2″ cubes. De-stem the kale and chop into small, edible pieces. Drain and rinse black beans. Preheat oven to 375°. Into a skillet warmed on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil. Add in the butternut squash and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt to taste. Add in 1/3 cup of the enchilada sauce. Cover and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until just barely ready. Don’t cook it all the way through. Add in the kale, black beans, and additional tablespoon of oil. Cook for another 3 minutes. Salt to taste. Remove from heat. Stir in 2/3 cup more of enchilada sauce with 1/4 cup of cheese (more if you like things cheesy). Use the skillet as your baking pan, or place in an 8″ x 10″ pan (or something similar in size).
Make the topping. Add the masa to a bowl. Stir in the warm water and kosher salt until combined, adding more water as needed. The mixture should be slightly spreadable but thick. Crumble evenly over the pan and press out until flat. Top with remaining enchilada sauce. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Garnish with cotija, cilantro, and avocados. Serve.
• It’s important to note that masa is not the same as cornmeal used for cornbread. You can often find it at your grocery store in the latin section or order from Amazon. You can also use masa with this arepa recipe and these corn tortillas.
• To make this in advance, prep the vegetables only and freeze in a container or bag. Thaw before assembling. Make the sauce and topping just before assembling. Of course, you can freeze the uncooked assembled bake, but I find that it takes much longer to bake though, so I prefer the previous method mentioned.
You mention making this with cornmeal and masa. I can’t find masa in The Netherlands. Would you just make a cornbread topping?
Masa is called all sorts of names, which makes it a bit hard to find and track down! I’ve seen it called masa or masa harina or P.A.N. corn flour, which is different than the cornmeal we’re used to. I imagine you could do a cornbread topping and that it would be delicious! Here’s my favorite cornbread recipe. You may want to add the enchilada sauce a little later into baking with this method. Let me know if you try it!
I made this today and my family LOVED it! Thank you for sharing this recipe!
This Butternut Kale Tamale Bake is so Instagrammable and adorable! As you know I made it a short while ago and it was lovely! Thx, Melissa for sharing!
Butternut Kale Tamale Bake is something new for me! On the first photo looks like a pizza:) I rly wondered to find unsweetened chocolate powder in this recipe)) Thx for sharing!
reading this from France and wanting to replicate it tonight (Kale is still quite a “new” thing to cook, at least for me). BUT, I don’t have anything that’s quite similar to “1 c. P.A.N. pre-cooked white or yellow corn meal”.. Would you have a suggestion as to what I can make instead ? Some sort of “crust” I guess. I would go with a kind of bread crust… Anyhow, I really like your blog and your house ! Cheers, Marie
Hi Marie! I’m so sorry for the late response. I’ve been out of town and away from my computer. You could make a polenta crust like this one from Brooklyn Supper. Again, so sorry for the delay!
Made this tonight. I was out of cocoa, so I skipped that. Delicious!!!
This tamale bake sounds AMAZING. We’ve been looking for the perfect recipe to whip up for my boyfriend’s father’s birthday, and I think this one is it! He used to be a chef, so we definitely want to impress him with something a little different. Thank you thank you for the inspiration!
Oh my gosh! I love the idea of this! I have never thought of combining some of these flavors together, so I can’t wait to try it! Also, as a fellow Minnesotan, I can attest to the success of growing up with many, many of these “bakes.” They were a staple of my childhood, so don’t worry! You’re doing a fabulous job as a dinner prepper. 🙂 xoxo
I LOVE this—it’s like my inner kid dinner (we ate a lot of casseroles) combined with more my more responsible adult self (who likes vegetables and quick prep)! Diced tomatoes are a total must in our pantry too!
im all for this bake…it sounds fancier than casserole which im not a big fan of 🙂
This sounds awesome! So many fall flavours in there and great for leftovers!
Oh my yum! This looks great girl!