Slow-cooked tamales are delicious, but you don't always have all day to make them. If you're in the mood for that flavor but shorter on time, try this tamale and grit casserole instead, using some of your ground venison. The finished dish is meaty and cheesy, and it packs all the flavor of a slow-cooked tamale into a quick and easy dish that is perfect for a weeknight dinner.
For maximum flavor, use high-quality grits. We use a blend of white and yellow stone-ground grits from Wiesenberger Mill, a nationally renowned mill near our house. If you can’t find locally produced or stone-ground grits in your area, at least use regular grits instead of instant. Regular ground grits have a slightly coarser texture than instant and, while they take a bit longer to cook, the finished product is worth it. Also, finished grits don’t absorb salt well, so add a bit of salt to your water before adding the grits for better flavor.
2 pounds ground venison
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 can (15.25 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
8 cups cooked grits (prepared with butter and salt according to package directions)
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons additional chili powder, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded queso cheese
Start by adding a tablespoon or so of oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and bell pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent and the pepper is soft. Add the ground venison to the pan and cook until the meat is just browned through.
Add the corn, roasted tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, a tablespoon of chili powder, brown sugar, basil and oregano. Simmer for 10 minutes, check flavor for salt and add if needed, then remove the pan from the heat.
While the venison cooks, cook the grits according to package directions (water amounts can vary by brand). Once the grits are smooth and creamy, add the queso cheese (reserve the cheddar). Stir until the cheese has melted completely. Remove the grits from the heat and add the beaten eggs. Stir well.
Spread half the grits into a 13x9 dish, and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle over half the remaining chili powder and the cooked meat mixture. Sprinkle on half the cheddar cheese.
Add the remaining grits to the top of the meat and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle on remaining cheddar cheese and chili powder. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese has melted and slightly browned. Allow the casserole to set for a few minutes before slicing to serve. We like to serve the dish with warmed corn tortillas.
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