Cumin and cinnamon are very aromatic. A little bit goes a long way here and give the sweet potatoes a nice, confusing-to-the-senses, cross between sweet and savory. The beans and sweet potatoes are fairly unadorned beyond that and you will be surprised at how healthful this delicious casserole really is. There is a little bit of cheese, and a little bit of egg, to help hold the tamale/cornbread topping together.
Tomatillos are an interesting little fruit. If you haven’t played with them, you should. The husks are lovely, and when you unwrap them, they make your hands sticky. Rinse the fruits and you are left with firm little orbs. When roasted at this high a temperature, they liquefy. Allow them to roast until that happens. I merely season them with salt and a little touch of cream and puree them. The result is a rather bitter cream sauce. That may sound odd, and you might be a little wary. But served on top of this rather sweet dish, it provides a wonderful balance.
We have had this for dinner several times and it will remain on my list of meals to which I will often return. Each time, I mess with the topping a little and use a little more or a little less, depending on my mood. The filling of the casserole is already fully cooked, so you need only accomplish baking the topping. If you choose to use less topping, adjust the cooking time accordingly and test the topping as you would a cake, with a toothpick. If the toothpick comes out clean, you are all set…so to speak.
4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pierced with a fork
½ medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed then drained
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles
2 teaspoons cumin, divided use
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 can sweet corn, reserve liquid
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1½ cups masa harina
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husks removed
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes several times with a fork along the top. Place the sweet potatoes on a foil-covered baking dish and place them in the oven for one hour or until they are easily pierced with a sharp knife. Rinse, then quarter the tomatillos, toss them with olive oil and 1 teaspoon cumin and place them in a separate baking dish. Place the dish with the tomatillos in the oven and allow them to roast for 30 minutes alongside the sweet potatoes. Remove each from the oven when they have finished roasting and allow them to cool.
2. In a skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil for 4 minutes. Add the drained black beans and green chiles. Stir in 1 teaspoon cumin and the cinnamon. Stir to thoroughly combine.
3. Cut a slit in each sweet potato and spoon out the pulp. Place it in a separate bowl. Repeat the process with all four potatoes. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher, then add them to the black bean mixture. Stir to combine, but without mashing the beans. Spoon the mixture into a 10” x 6” baking dish. Sprinkle the mixture with the cheese.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the masa flour and the baking powder. In a measuring glass, combine the reserved corn liquid, 4 tablespoons of melted butter and enough water to make 1½ cups of liquid. Add one egg and whisk the mixture to completely incorporate the egg. Pulse the corn in the bowl of a food processor several times until it is well chopped, but not yet pureed. Add the liquid to the bowl of masa and whisk to work out any lumps. Stir in the corn. Scoop the masa mixture on top of the bean mixture and smooth it out with a knife or the back side of a spoon. You may have extra, depending on the dimensions of the baking dish that you choose and how thickly you apply the topping.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake the casserole for 40 minutes. Allow the casserole to rest for at least 10 minutes after baking.
6. Meanwhile, puree the roasted tomatillos and heat them in a saucepan. Add the heavy cream and stir. Serve the casserole with a generous spoonful of the cream sauce on top.