Friday, February 10, 2012

King Ranch Casserole

A Tex-Mex favorite, this homemade from scratch version of King Ranch Casserole is made using a highly seasoned shredded chicken, and a butter roux-based cream sauce, seasoned with a medley of veggies and peppers, and layered in with cheese and corn tortillas. Yum y'all!

King Ranch Casserole

King Ranch Casserole is more Tex Mex than it is Deep South, but since I have roots in that region too, I'll claim it over here as a Mississippi favorite as well! It's a simple layered casserole, typically made using seasoned, shredded chicken, fresh veggies, and layered with a sauce, in between corn tortillas and shredded cheese. Really, what is not to love about that?!

I've made this recipe both with a homemade sauce and with cream soups, and while we southerners love our cream soups in casseroles - and frankly, this is quite good when made that way - I love this dish with this simple homemade sauce. Cream soups are so common for this casserole though, that I'd go as far as to say that some folks would claim it is not an authentic King Ranch Casserole if it's not made with cream soups. Well, y'all know I am endeared to cream soups, and in my kitchen they are always a pantry staple, but the roux-based sauce of butter, broth and cream, really makes this casserole shine. While it's a little bit more time intensive, it really is worth the extra effort.

Nikki, Christy and Dianne, all from our Facebook family of foodies, each contributed their favorite recipes last spring, which became the basis for this recipe, and at least one of which seems to have a bit of a Homesick Texan spin to it, though which came first I can't really say. You can check out all the contributions that birthed this version over on our Facebook page.

Nobody seems to know the true origin of King Ranch Casserole, and while most commonly associated with the King Ranch in Texas, apparently they lay no claim to it. Doesn't matter much really, because it has been, and remains, as highly a popular casserole in Texas (though there are as many versions of it as there are Texas cooks), as it is across the U.S. community and junior league cookbook circuits. Whether it's a potluck, church supper or funeral food dish, King Ranch is always well received, no matter where it's made, though you should keep it on the mild side for those kinds of social events, just to be on the safe side.

We've got some cooler weather that's moved again, giving us another one of those very brief spurts of temporary southern winter we experience down here. This weekend would be a great time to serve this stick-to-your-ribs favorite. Besides, you probably have one of those humongous economy packs of corn tortillas languishing in your pantry as we speak, right? 

Here's how to make it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray; set aside. To 4 cups of cooked, shredded chicken, add 2 teaspoons of chili powder, 1/2 tablespoon of cumin powder, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning or cayenne. You can cook up a whole chicken, use what you have in the freezer, or just shred up a whole rotisserie chicken from the store.


Toss well and set aside. Looks good already doesn't it?


If you haven't already, chop up those veggies. You'll want 1 cup of chopped onion, 1/2 cup of chopped red, yellow or orange bell pepper, and I used a cup of chopped poblano pepper. Now... I wanted to keep this on the milder side, so this, together with the chipotle chili powder, smoked cumin, and Rotel works for me, but here's where you can be as adventurous as you like with your heat level. If you like heat, by all means use your favorite hot chile peppers.


Now that the prep is mostly out of the way, we're gonna start with a small roux. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large skillet and stir in 2 tablespoons of flour. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.


Add the chopped onion and peppers; cook and stir just until tender, but not browned.


Add the drained tomatoes, cook and stir another 2 minutes.


If your corn tortillas are not super fresh, you can first dip them into the chicken broth to pre-soften them. Then slowly add in the chicken stock or broth, stirring until fully incorporated.


Simmer for 2 minutes.


Add the cream until fully incorporated and heated through.


Remove and set aside 1/3 cup of this sauce. Boy that looks pretty good doesn't it? Makes me hungry all over again!


Add the seasoned chicken.


Toss together to blend and heat through.


Add in the sour cream, lime zest, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.


Mix in well and remove from heat. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.


Add the reserved 1/3 cup of sauce you saved to the bottom of the prepared baking dish and spread out.


Add 6 whole corn tortillas to the bottom of the dish, overlapping them. Tear pieces to fit if you need to.


Spoon the chicken mixture over the top of that.


Shred up 4 cups of cheese and combine them. I used jack and cheddar.


Sprinkle 2 cups of the mixed cheese on top of the chicken mixture.


Rinse and repeat. Well, not really... don't rinse anything!!! I don't even know why I said that, just repeat the layers - another layer of corn tortillas, then the rest of the chicken mixture.


And ending with the remaining 2 cups of cheese. Look at those yummy layers already!


Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top. If you try to slice this piping hot, right out of the oven, just like any layered casserole, it will spread. For nice layered slices, let the casserole rest at least 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. It's torturous but we can do this! The longer it sits, the nicer the layers will be.


Mouth watering yet? Cut into squares and serve with a dab of sour cream and a sprinkle of freshly chopped cilantro, if you like it. If you don't, just forget I said that. By the way. Leftovers? Marvelous.

Recipe: King Ranch Casserole

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 25 min |Cook time: 35 min | Yield: About 10 servings

Ingredients

Chicken Seasoning:
  • 4 cups of cooked chopped or shredded chicken
  • 2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon of cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning or cayenne
Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) of unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup of chopped red, yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped poblano pepper
  • 1 can of mild Rotel tomatoes with green chilies, drained
  • 1 cup of chicken stock or broth
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons of lime zest
  • 1/8 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
For Layering:
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups of shredded jack cheese or pepper jack
  • 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Additional sour cream and cilantro, for garnish
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray; set aside. Place the chicken in a bowl and add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and cayenne. Toss well and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet and stir in the flour. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the chopped onion and peppers; cook and stir just until tender, but not browned. Add the drained tomatoes, cook and stir another 2 minutes. Slowly add in the chicken broth, then the cream, stirring until fully incorporated and heated through. Remove and set aside 1/3 cup of the sauce. Add the chicken to the skillet, stir to heat through, add the sour cream, lime zest, cilantro, and salt and pepper; mix well and remove from heat. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Add the reserved 1/3 cup of sauce to the bottom of the prepared baking dish and spread out. Add 6 whole corn tortillas to the bottom of the dish, overlapping them. Spoon the chicken mixture over the top of that. Mix the two shredded cheeses together; sprinkle 2 cups of the cheese on top of the chicken mixture. Repeat layers of corn tortillas, chicken mixture and ending with the remaining 2 cups of cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top. For nice layered slices, let the casserole rest at least 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with a dab of sour cream and a sprinkle of freshly chopped cilantro, if desired.

Cook's Notes:I used meat from a roasted chicken that I had previously cooked and frozen, broth made from Better than Bouillon, a chipotle chili powder, smoked cumin, and sweet onion. This casserole can be assembled and refrigerated or frozen. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature and bake. May also use flour tortillas.

Tip: Janice, on our Facebook page, shared this tip. Dip the tortillas in chicken broth before putting in the dish, and says it really makes a difference and is even better if you have some rich hen broth. She also adds some diced pimiento.

Shortcut King Ranch: Shortcut the process by using canned cream soups. Skip the butter and flour roux and homemade sauce (broth, cream, and sour cream) and substitute a family sized can of cream of mushroom, or a combination of two regular sized cans, one cream of chicken, the other cream of mushroom. Adjust or eliminate salt as needed. Instead of corn tortillas, you can also roughly crumble in some plain tortilla chips, though you'll need to consider the sodium level and likely eliminate the salt. Can also shred the tortillas, but you'll need more of them.

Beef King Ranch: Substitute 2 pounds of cooked and drained ground beef or about 4 cups of shredded, cooked beef roast or brisket and beef stock or broth.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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Posted by on February 10, 2012
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44 comments:

  1. oh my gosh, this sounds like pure comfort food! Stop by and see my new look! It's the same address, but you may need to refresh it www.anniebakes.net, anne

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  2. this looks absolutely delicious, and I would opt for making my own cream base too. Can't wait to try it. Thanks.

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  3. I'm from Texas and this is one of those casseroles I couldn't get enough of growing up with my mama's cooking. Thanks for posting, because this yet another recipe of yours that I'm able to introduce to my own little family.

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  4. I've had this dish on my try someday list for quite awhile but have never got to it, but after seeing your cheesy delicious version I believe it will have to go to the top.

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  5. Very nice Anne - love the new look!

    I don't have a thing against cream soups - they are part of the southern culture, but the homemade sauce in this is divine! Hope you give it a try!

    Hi Hollie! Please let me know if you give it a try & what you think!

    Larry, it's a great cool weather dish - I think you'll enjoy it!

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  6. Just wanted to let you know that even though I don't leave comments, I love your blog and use many of your recipes. I'm a Southern girl stranded on the West Coast and your recipes are like a taste of home. Thanks!

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  7. Just wanted to let you know that even though I don't leave comments, I love your blog and use many of your recipes. I'm a Southern girl stranded on the West Coast and your recipes are like a taste of home. Thanks!

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  8. This is my favorite casserole of all time Mary! My husband adores it too. I have a recipe that also uses canned soup, but like you, I think making the homemade sauce is better. And the Rotel tomatoes are a must! Great job- now I'm craving it!

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  9. No offence, but being a south texan and fixing this for over 40 yrs, here is a faster,easier & better recipe.

    1 can cream of chicken soup
    1 can Rotel tomatoes with peppers
    1 fryer cooked and boned
    1/2 c. chicken broth
    12 corn tortillas
    1 med. onion, chopped
    2 c. grated cheddar cheese
    1/4 c. chopped bell pepper
    Mix soups, broth and Rotel tomatoes for sauce. Layer chicken, tortillas (torn in small pieces), onion, cheese, sauce in a greased casserole. Repeat layers ending with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Serves 6.

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    Replies
    1. Hi there WD Brown! No offense taken, and thank you for sharing your recipe, but if you check that link I included in the post itself, and also the variation I wrote in the cook's notes of the recipe, you'll see I did also include the "shortcut" version. This recipe is for a homemade "scratch" version and is quite delicious and really, not all that more time consuming to be honest.

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  10. Dear Mary, this sounds delish! I know my family would just love it! Mouthwatering photos too! Blessings, Catherine xo

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  11. Thank you so much Lib! I'm glad that you are enjoying the recipes & appreciate so much you letting me know!

    Lynda is a winner either way if you ask me!

    Hi there WD Brown! None taken, and thank you for sharing your recipe, but if you check that link I included in the post itself, and also the variation I wrote in the cook's notes of the recipe, you'll see I did also include the "shortcut" version. This recipe is for a homemade "scratch" version and is quite delicious and really, not all that more time consuming to be honest.

    Thanks so much Catherine!

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  12. This is one of my favorites but oddly my boys don't like it much so I don't get to make it often. They might just have to tough it out this weekend, lol, I am craving it.

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  13. AS always....fabulous to look at and sounds delicious!! You rock!

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  14. Just stumbled across your blog and so glad I did.
    I am from south Miss. and now in Tx...
    excited to look around your blog more!

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  15. I made this for my sweetheart yesterday and he loved it!! It is so delicious and I'll definitely be making it over and over again!

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  16. Thanks so much Chickpea & I really appreciate you coming back by to let me know!!

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  17. I have been making the "shortcut" version for YEARS - I keep the basics in the pantry at all times in case of emergency. :) I'm SO excited about your version though!!! I love scratch made anything so much more and I can't wait to try it!! And I love love love your site and can't wait to try everything that I can.

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  18. In my opinion they are both yummy Marisha, but let me know if you try this one & welcome! Hope that you enjoying visiting with us here.

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  19. What a tasty sounding casserole!

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  20. I have been looking for a recipe that doesn't use the "cream of" soups and I'm so glad to have found this! I can't wait to make it.

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  21. I'm a native Texan living in Montana, so glad I found your blog, I do miss real southern or Tex Mex food, recipes that will take me back home.

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  22. I just discovered your blog and LOVE it!! As a Texan, I can attest to the popularity of this dish. A lot of us Texans also like to use Doritos corn chips (crushed up a bit) instead of the tortillas. You've got to try it!

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  23. I'm a Texan and can attest to the popularity of this dish. A lot of us like to use Doritos (has to be Doritos original flavored corn chips!) instead of the tortillas. Just crush them up a bit, dump them in your pan, then top (and stir) with the chicken mixture then cheese. Got to give it a try!

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    1. Hi Sophie & welcome!! I have made that casserole too & it is very good. I need to get it posted!

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  24. Hi Mary! I've been making this for years using the quick method. After seeing your version I think it will taste better. Cannot wait to try it.

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  25. Trying this tonight. Didn't want to go to the store, so we're using a combination of taco shells and flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas, mozarella cheese, lime JUICE, Old Bay seasoning instead of cajun, and no cilantro. It smells delicious. Can't wait to taste it.

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  26. Oh yeah! That was awesome! Even with my substitutions.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping back by to let us know - great substitutions!!

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  27. That looks seriously good! How I've never seen a recipe like this before I don't know, but I'm pinning to give this a try!

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    1. Hi Kim & thanks for the pin! It's really a great casserole - like a Tex Mex lasagna, so you may have seen something similar called that. A lot of people make the shortcut version with the cream soups, which is delicious but I do hope that you'll try the scratch version first! Please let me know if you do & what you think.

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  28. It's in the oven now and it smells amazing! So glad there are no "fake" ingredients in this casserole

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    Replies
    1. The shortcuts are good, but I really wanted to do a nice scratch version. I hope that you enjoy it!!

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  29. I have just made this in the freezing cold Spring in the South east of UK - lovely hot and warming smells and tastes :)
    However .. its a little spicy for my family (sorry we are wimps) is there anything I could sub the chilli powder for to keep the taste but reduce the heat please ? Thanks so much for this it is yum !!

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    1. Hi Ana! It is traditionally a fairly spicy dish - the heat coming from the poblano pepper, Rotel tomatoes and the pepper jack cheese as well as the chili powder. Since there are already a variety of sweet peppers included, eliminate the poblano, exchange the Rotel for regular diced tomatoes and use a milder cheese, like regular Monterey Jack in place of the pepper jack, or another mild white cheese of your choice, or even just a little extra Cheddar if you prefer. As far as the chili powder goes, I don't know that there's a good stand-in for that, though you could certainly just add a tiny pinch. The cilantro can be a pungent so you could substitute flat leaf parsley for that also if you like. Hope that helps!

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  30. I made this for my family and it was seriously good !! However we are all wimps and it was a little hot for us - is there any way I could tone it down but not lose any of the taste ?
    Thanks loads - it did much to brighten the dullness of a dreary English spring :)

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  31. Made this for dinner tonight and it was amazing! I've seen it for years, but never wanted to make it using the cream soups so never tried it. This recipe is fabulous and I'm already looking forward to leftovers!

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    1. Thanks so much Harriett! I don't have an aversion to cream soups, I use them sometimes, but you can't be scratch cooking either. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this version!

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  32. This was amazing! Had a bit of a kick to it but everyone really enjoyed it. By the way, can you freeze this casserole?

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    1. Cooked leftovers can be frozen, but be sure to only warm them up very slowly. The casserole can also be assembled and frozen unbaked. Thaw overnight in the fridge before baking as above.

      It does have a little kick! You can control that of course by using milder sweet bell peppers instead of the hot and regular diced tomatoes instead of the Rotel.

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  33. As a Texan in San Antonio I know from King Ranch Chicken! I am anxious to try the home-made sauce version as I have always loved the creamed soup variety. We grew up making it with tortilla chips instead of tortillas (probably not as original but still very good). I love this made with Tostitos Artisan chips instead of tortillas...

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