Above: Try New Mexico's version of a shepherd's pie (from Oh By Golly, December 2021). Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
If you’re too busy around the holidays to spend the time rolling tamales, this is a yummy way to cheat and still enjoy the tasty ingredients found in that time-consuming holiday treat. As I adapted this recipe from one that I found in an old cookbook, I realized it is a New Mexican version of shepherd’s pie. The original recipe called for leftover meat and leftover gravy. Fresh bison from Santa Fe’s Beck & Bulow is tastier and healthier. Or try it with ground lamb from Shepherd’s Lamb, in Chama.
2 pounds ground bison
1 cup white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped in ¼-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup frozen or canned corn
14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup New Mexico green chile, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon ground New Mexico red chile
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
2¼ cups masa harina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups beef broth
½ cup melted butter
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Makes 12 servings
Preheat oven to 400° (recipe does not need adjusting for altitude). Choose your baking dish: two 9-inch deep-dish pie pans, one 9-by-13-inch baking dish, 12 one-cup-capacity cocottes, or a 12-to-14-inch cast-iron skillet. Coat with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
Place a Dutch oven (or cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat. Add the bison and break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Brown the meat, then push it to the sides of the pan and add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic.
Cook until the onions have softened. Mix in corn, crushed tomatoes, green chile, cornstarch, red chile, cumin, salt, brown sugar, vinegar, and cheese. Stir well and turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, mix the masa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the beef broth and butter. Whisk until smooth. Stir in the cheese. Batter will be thick but spreadable (add more broth if needed).
Divide and pour the meat filling into the prepared pans. (If you cooked the filling in a cast-iron skillet, you can leave it in the pan.) Pour (or spoon) the corn batter evenly over the top and spread to the edges of the pans. Spraying a spatula with nonstick spray will make this easier.
Bake for 35–45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the corn batter comes out clean.