The King of Casseroles: The King Ranch Chicken

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Oh the casserole.  We Texans, probably more than any other American, love our casseroles.  Much more, we love our casseroles cheesy and with a little kick in 'em.  Without a doubt, The King Ranch Chicken casserole is the most popular Texan casserole.  With its cheesy mixture of tomatoes and peppers, corn tortillas, and cream...  it goes down easy and is the ultimate southern comfort food. 

King Ranch chicken is basically an enchilada casserole, but it is cheesier and creamier and spicier than most.  It gets its name from the epic King Ranch (where my husband happens to work, actually).  It's not the prettiest dish to serve either.  But once you taste it, and once you make it, you will see why it has its place in Texas history.  According to a Texas Monthly article, no one really knows its history or where it came from and long time King Ranchers who tout their beef and game recipes won't claim it to have originated on the Ranch.  What is certain is its sudden appearnace since the invention of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken soups - two of the casseroles staples.  It is a clear mixture of authentic Mexican cuisine and a 50's era casserole.  Love it or hate it, it is a Texan staple.  Here is the recipe that I use:

King Ranch Chicken CasseroleIngredients:
1 cooked 2 1/2 pound fryer (cooked with cumin, onion, celery and garlic) and then shredded
10-15 corn tortillas
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, diced
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese (plus more for sprinkling on top)
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup of chicken broth
1 can of Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 tsp. of chile powder

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine soups, broth, Ro-Tel tomatoes and chile powder; blend until smooth.
3. Mix in the Chicken and peppers and about 1/2 cup of cheese.
4. Tear or cut up the tortillas and make a layer on the bottom of a 9x13 pan with half.
5.  Cover with a layer of the soup and chicken mixture, cover with cheese.
6. Repeat layers, ending with cheese.
7. Bake uncovered for 30-45 minutes or until brown and bubbling.

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