Turkey and Pinto Bean Cornbread Pie: Almost Meatless Potluck Dinner

You know how, about a month ago, I said I liked potluck dinners? Well, come on over for another one! This time our hosts are Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond, coauthors of Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet. About 30 food bloggers are participating. I’m bringing Turkey and Pinto Bean Cornbread Pie. Cuz, y’know, I like cornmeal.

If you’re a regular reader, you know that lately I’ve been having some trouble getting Harry to eat, well, just about anything. Certainly nothing he’s never eaten before—though he’ll make an exception for sugar-based goods, of course. I’ve been scratching my head (tearing my hair out is more like it) trying to figure out how to entice him to broaden his culinary horizons, and one tip has come up several times: Have junior help you make the meal, and s/he will be more likely to eat it. Harry and I have baked together countless times, but we don’t do a whole lot of actual cooking. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I’ll confess: I did the jalapeno chopping while Harry was at camp. OK, and I made the salsa and cooked the filling, too. (Please don’t ask me to tell you about how I embarrassed myself by pestering Joy and Tara with stupid questions. I do know how to read a recipe. Really, I do.) But I enlisted his help for the best part: mixing the dough and assembling the pie. It all came together beautifully, and Harry certainly was interested in everything. He bakes challah every Friday at preschool (I love that, don’t you?), so he’s an old pro with yeast—though he was sorely disappointed at the lack of kneading involved. I think the batter-ness of this, as opposed to dough-ness, puzzled him. Spooning the filling on top of the batter absolutely thrilled him, as did scattering the grated cheese on top. Clearly, he was proud of his accomplishment:

(Note the nearly-overflowing pie dish. This will be important later.)

So naturally, the kid can’t wait to taste this marvelous creation, right?

(Note the green shirt, the green popsicle, and the green popsicle holder which doesn’t quite work. The kid likes green.)

True to his word, at dinnertime he outright refused to taste it. So much for that tip.

One thing that intrigued me about this pie was the cold oven technique. I’ve never seen a baking recipe that didn’t call for preheating, and certainly not a yeasty one. When I first got the recipe from Joy and Tara, I asked about it. Tara told me the origin: “My mother made something using this technique and I was so intrigued by it, I wanted to fiddle with it a bit, too. I love the method for the simultaneous slow rise/bake and the yeasty flavor of the cornbread crust of the finished product.”

Yeah, that yeast.

This is why rulers are so crucial in the kitchen. Apparently I pulled the eight-inch, not the nine-inch, pie plate from my overcrowded cabinet. Sigh.

Let’s pretend that didn’t happen, shall we, and discuss the taste. Harry may not have been willing to taste it, but his father freaking LOVED it. Had seconds, and brought the rest to work for lunch the next day. Oddly, I was less fond of it—I subbed parsley for the dirty-dishwater-weed cilantro, but my tastebuds played a trick on me. Even though I knew it was parsley, I still sensed cilantro. My enjoyment was somewhat diminished.

Joy, Tara, I realize this may not be the post you were hoping for. I had some mishaps, all of my own (or my tastebuds’) making. But folks, this is a good recipe. You know how you can read a recipe and know whether or not it’ll be good? This one reads good. So let’s all be like Stephen, and go back for more.

Turkey and Pinto Bean Cornbread Pie
Serves 4 to 6
Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press and the authors

1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped [I used parsley]
1 garlic clove, smashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon seeded and diced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
8 ounces ground turkey thigh
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup cooked pinto beans, or approximately 1/3 of a 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cornbread crust
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 tablespoon seeded and diced jalapeno [I left this out, thinking it might overwhelm Harry. I was so naive.]
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup warm milk (about 120° F)
2 7-gram packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup grated cheddar or jack cheese

Sour cream for garnish

Brush a 9-inch pie dish lightly with oil or butter.

Prepare the salsa by mixing together the tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, shallots, jalapeno, and vinegar. Set aside to let the flavors come together.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the turkey, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, beans, chile powder, cumin, and salt, mix the ingredients together and sauté briefly until the garlic and spices are fragrant. Add the water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until most of the liquid is gone, scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, salt, corn, jalapeno, egg, oil, honey, milk, and yeast. Pour the batter into the pie dish. Top with meat and beans, then the salsa and cheese.

Set the dish atop a baking sheet in a cold oven. Set oven to 375° F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cornbread crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the pie sit about 10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving with dollops of sour cream.