Sunday, February 24, 2008

February 24: King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Every now and then I run into a total food oddity. Fried pickles, for example: who would have thought that fried pickles would taste so good? A great fried dill pickle is battered and deep-fried until golden and crispy, and they are so straightforward and unpretentious that I can't resist them. It's like that aunt who everyone but you dreads seeing at family gatherings because she's so outspoken, dresses flamboyantly, and embarasses all her sisters, but you find completely hilarious.

Enter the King Ranch Chicken Casserole. According to one of my very favorite food bloggers, Homesick Texan, this casserole has simple roots: named maybe after a giant ranch in southern Texas or maybe after retro classic chicken a la king, this recipe is almost an enchilada casserole, and almost a chicken lasagna, Tex-Mex style.

In addition to being a big fan of Tex-Mex and Mexican food, I am a fan of casseroles as well. They are great comfort food, they freeze well, feed a crowd, and make great leftovers. I like the simplicity of a one pot meal coming to the table on a Monday night, giving you all your meat, starch, and vegetables in one spoonful and leaving minimal cleanup in the kitchen.

This casserole sounded incredibly weird to me the first time I heard about it, but after reading Homesick Texan's redux, I am a convert. This is her recipe, a grownup version of a casserole that originally contained two kinds of canned soup and a whole roasted 2 1/2 pound chicken. She calls this "slightly fancy-pants." I am okay with that.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

1 1/2 pounds of chicken, without skin and bones
4 teaspoons of lime juice
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons of butter
1/2 an onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 10oz. can of Ro-Tel tomatoes (or you can use a can of regular diced tomatoes and a 4 oz. can of diced green chiles, or if tomatoes are in season, can use two cups of diced fresh tomatoes with 1/4 cup of diced green chiles, such as a jalapeno)
4 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 cup of chicken broth
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup of half and half
1/3 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
3 cups of grated pepper jack and cheddar
10 corn tortillas
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cook the chicken in the olive oil on medium, adding 2 teaspoons of lime juice, 2 teaspoons of ancho chile powder and salt to taste.

2. When chicken is done (after about 20 minutes), shred it with two forks and set aside. Should yield about 3 cups.

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium, and add the onions, red bell pepper and poblano pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.

4. Add the garlic, flour, cumin, cayenne pepper and 2 teaspoons of ancho chile powder, and cook for 1 minute.

5. Add the chicken broth and cook on low until mixture is thickened, a few minutes. Stir in the half-and-half and Ro-Tel cover the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Uncover the pot, and add the sour cream, 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 1/4 cup of cilantro, and add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

8. Heat up the tortillas (you can do this by adding a bit of oil on an iron skillet and then cooking the tortillas for about 30 seconds on each side).

9. Ladle 1/2 cup of the sauce onto the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking pan.

10. Layer half the tortillas along the bottom of the pan (on top of the sauce). To make sure entire pan is evenly covered, you can rip some of the tortillas into strips to fill any gaps.

11. Add half the chicken, half the remaining sauce, half the remaining cilantro and 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese.

12. Repeat the layering, leaving the cheese layer on top.

13. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Serves 6-12, depending on how big a portion you distribute. Goes great with sour cream and cilantro on top.

1 comment:

merseydotes said...

It sounds like Tex-Mex lasagna. Like a meaty version of this. I will have to give it a try.