Let me tell you about the time I made Tamales.
It was almost exactly a year ago.
Well, it was just after Christmas and if you were reading back then you may remember we had twenty-one people in ONE house. Food was going quick, but we always have some sort of Mexican dish on New Years Eve. Sure, we could have ordered out and made things super easy, but I had the brilliant idea to make a Mexican feast.
Only, it was not all that brilliant for me.
I am not sure what I was thinking trying to make homemade tamales for the very first time for twenty-one plus people (yeah, there where friends too). I am insane and normally I have fun cooking, but these tamales were just not fun.
I spent the entire day on New Years Eve cooking beef and shredding beef, trying to spread the masa evenly in the corn husk, wrapping tamales and then trying to figure out how to steam them with any kind of steamer.
And then I made Mexican rice, chorizo and guacamole.
Let’s just say it was a good thing that New Years Eve is such a long night. I needed it.
In all honesty the tamales turned out pretty good for my first time, but they were not pretty and I probably messed up multiple things within the recipe. Luckily that did not seem to stop anyone and they all got eaten.
I have to say though, the guacamole was the winner of the night, with the chorizo coming in close behind. Then the tamales.
And you know what?
I am pretty sure I want to try again this year. My cousins are coming out again for Christmas and I am just not sure we can do New Years without tamales.
So this meal was kind of getting me prepped.
Actually, not really.
These burrito bowls are so easy, but they taste like tamales. Well, they have tamale flavors. Authentic tamales are made with beef, but I only had chicken on hand and I wanted to keep things on the healthier side.
I have to say, polenta makes an awesome base to a burrito bowl.
Plus, it’s fun to switch up the rice, and polenta works really well with the saucy chicken. It is extra creamy and creamy is always, always good. Especially during cold winter days.
The best part is that this is so versatile. Use your favorite meat or whatever you have on hand. Just make sure to adjust the cooking times. And if you want to go vegetarian try swapping all beans for the chicken or using lentils. I think both would be SO good, but my family hates beans, so that was just not an option for me.
Oh, and I totally forgot to add the crushed tortilla chips to the top of this, but really you must do this. It is so good.
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast or thighs (I used a mix of both - you may also use pork, beef or lentils for a vegetarian version)
- 2 cups red enchilada sauce
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 onion, slided
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 1 orange pepper, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (drained and rinsed if using canned)
- Cheesy Polenta
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup polenta (I used Bob's Red Mill)
- 4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese shredded, plus more for topping if desired
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2-4 tablespoons butter (your preference)
- For topping
- 1 avocado, mashed with a pinch of salt and pepper (or some [guacamole | http://www.halfbakedharvest.com/margarita-chicken-quesadilla-with-margarita-guacamole/]
- 4 ounces queso fresco cheese, crumbled
- fresh cilantro, chopped
- crushed tortilla chips (forgot to add these in the photos, but you should do this!)
Heat a very large skillet over medium- high heat and add the olive oil. When the skillet is hot, but not smoking (if it starts to smoke, turn heat down a bit and wait 5 minutes before adding the veggies) add the onions and red and orange peppers. Stir fry the peppers for 3-5 minutes, until they just begin to soften. Remove from the skillet and set aside. Keep warm by covering the plate with foil.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the chicken and brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Once the chicken is browned all over add the the enchilada sauce, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic and onion powder and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer the chicken in the sauce for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through and shreds easily.
Meanwhile, make the polenta. Pour the chicken broth and milk into a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the polenta. Cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is soft and thick, about 15 to 20 minutes. Keep warm and then just before serving, stir in the cheddar cheese and butter, season with salt and pepper. If the polenta seems a little thick you can add a tablespoon of butter or extra milk.
When the chicken is done cooking remove the chicken from the heat and shred the chicken with 2 forks right in the sauce. If your peppers have cooled off too much I would toss them with the chicken to get them warm again. Toss in the black beans until warmed through.
To assemble the bowls, add a nice serving of polenta to each bowl. Top with the peppers and saucy chicken. Finish the bowls off with a dollop of mashed avocado, crumbled queso fresco, chopped cilantro and crushed tortilla chips. Dig. In.
To make this in the crockpot add everything except for the polenta (the chicken, enchilada sauce, spices, peppers and onions) right into the crockpot bowl. Add 1 cup of chicken broth and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. Shred the chicken and cook the polenta. Assemble as directed.
To make this a vegetarian meal try swapping the chicken for lentils or chickpeas.
Can we just please dig in now? YES.