We came up with this idea based on ingredients we had in the house: some black beans left after making rice and beans, a couple of ears of corn from a great sale, some puff pastry that’s been sitting in the freezer, and Swiss chard from our latest pickup at the CSA. But, we don’t really think of this as a leftover dish; it’s good enough to make anytime.
Please note that our ingredients and recipe will use our standard pie crust recipe, and we really think that you can even consider that optional — it’ll be good without the crust — so we mark it that way. We used a different crust — puff pastry crust — because we had some on hand, as we like to make up a batch in the cooler months and keep it in the freezer for later use.
We’ve tried to make up a batch of beans about once a week; if we don’t eat them all, the extras go into the freezer for another day. It may seem as if it’s a lot of trouble to cook dried beans, but it’s not so bad. We use fresh corn and recommend it because it tastes better than frozen and (ugh) canned corn. Don’t believe us? Do a taste comparison.
If you’re going to put a crust on top, we heartily recommend making the Bouchon Bakery’s Pâte Brisée. It’s the best we’ve found and it’s easy.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside for now.
Drain beans. Place the beans in a colander set over a bowl and let drain, reserving the liquid. Once drained, measure the amount of liquid and either discard some or add water until you have 1 cup.
Add polenta and spices. Add the polenta (or cornmeal; they’re pretty much the same thing), cumin, and chili powder and stir to mix. Let stand so the polenta will absorb some of the liquid while you continue.
Cook onions. Heat the tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn, until they’re starting to get tender, about 7 minutes.
Add garlic and red pepper. Stir in the garlic and red pepper and cook, stirring often — garlic is easy to burn — until you can smell the garlic and red pepper, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Cook chard. Add the Swiss chard and cook, stirring and turning the chard as needed, until it’s wilted and tender. Depending on the amount of chard you have, this can take 7 to 10 minutes, or possibly a bit more. Once tender, remove from heat.
Layer polenta mixture. Give the polenta and bean liquid a stir and pour it into the prepared pan. It won’t be thick; it’ll still be more like cornmeal and liquid, so try to spread the polenta grains in an even layer. As the pie bakes the polenta will absorb the liquid, making a thin layer on the bottom of the pie.
Layer chard. Scoop the Swiss chard over the polenta and liquid carefully so the polenta stays in a somewhat even layer and the chard makes an even layer.
Layer beans and corn. In a bowl (or use the colander that the beans have drained in) stir together the corn and beans. Scoop them into a layer across the Swiss chard mixture, pressing them down slightly.
Add cheese. We didn’t specify what type of cheese; we used Colby Jack cheese, which melts nicely, but just use a type of cheese that you like. Spread the cheese in a nice even layer across the bean and corn mixture.
Apply crust. If you’re using a crust, roll it into a rectangle about 9×13 inches — large enough to cover the pie. You have a couple of choices: you can cover the filling completely and cut a few slits in the top for venting, or you can roll it slightly smaller than 9×13 inches, leaving the edges of the filling exposed. We went with the latter.
Bake. Slide into the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes; long enough that the crust is nicely brown and the filling is bubbling all around the edges.
Stand. Let the pie stand for about 10 minutes to firm slightly before slicing and serving. It won’t be firm enough to make well-defined slices, but close.
We loved this dish, but, then, we think that beans and corn together is one of the best things you can make. We’ve read that the combination of beans and corn contain all essential amino acids, and we wonder if that’s why people think it’s so good, but really we have no idea. We just know that it makes for a great dish that makes for pretty much a complete meal. We’ll also point out that it’s good as leftovers, too, so don’t be alarmed if this is more than you eat at one meal. Five stars.