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King Ranch Chicken Casserole

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

If lasagna had originated in Texas it might look something like the King Ranch Chicken Casserole. Layers of Southwestern flavors in a creamy sauce blanketing roasted chicken, tucked between corn tortillas with cheese melting throughout!

Casseroles became extremely popular in the 1950s and the 1960s and King Ranch Chicken was a frequent attendee at many dinner tables. There’s no clear history of this one-dish wonder but most everyone agrees it was created in our great state. Some believe it was possibly named after the legendary King Ranch in Texas – regardless of its origin the flavors are big and bold!

Texas cuisine spans a broad range from Southern to Southwestern flavors. This dish falls squarely on the Southwestern side of the fence. The creamy sauce starts with sweet onions, red bell and smoky poblano peppers. Spice it up with chili powder and ground cumin then toss in red, ripe tomatoes, green chilies and sour cream before blending in chunks of roasted chicken and fresh cilantro.

Saddle everything between corn tortillas – each layer topped with Monterrey Jack and cheddar cheese – and you’re all set to feed your crowd!

There are three components in this casserole – roasting the chicken, crisping the corn tortillas and making the sauce. You can prep the chicken and the tortillas several hours or up to a day or so in advance of making the casserole. If you’re in a time crunch, pick up a roasted chicken at the market and use your favorite corn tortillas chips in place of the tortillas. Either way, the Southwestern flavors of this Texas classic are sure to please!

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

2 to 2-1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, divided

18 yellow corn tortillas, 8” each

¼ cup avocado or corn oil

6 tablespoons butter

1 large sweet onion, chopped – about 1-1/2 cups

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped – about 1 cup

1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped – about 1 cup

½ teaspoon chopped garlic, about 2 cloves

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

¼ cup flour

1-3/4 cup chicken stock

1 cup chopped tomatoes, about 4-5 small tomatoes

1 small can mild green chilies, 4-ounces

1-1/2 cups sour cream

1 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, rough chopped

2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese – about 7 to 8 ounces

2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese – about 7 to 8 ounces

For the chicken:

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Brush the chicken breasts with the olive oil and sprinkle all sides with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of the black pepper. Roast at 350-degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees and the juices run clear. Let the chicken rest at least 20 minutes before chopping or shredding. If you roast the chicken in advance, store it with the juices to help keep the chicken moist.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush both sides of the corn tortillas with the avocado or vegetable oil.

Cooking in batches, toast the tortillas in the hot skillet until they start to crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Stack the toasted tortillas on a plate and set aside while you make the sauce.

In a large shallow stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, bell and poblano peppers.

Cook until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the chili powder, the cumin, kosher salt and the black pepper, stirring to blend well into the vegetables.

Toss in the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Continue cooking over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Pour the chicken stock into the pan and stir until smooth. Cook for another 5 minutes to let the sauce thicken.

Turn off the heat and add the chopped tomatoes, green chilies and the sour cream.

Chop or shred the chicken breasts. Add the chicken along with the chopped cilantro to the sauce and stir to coat the chicken and blend well.

Lightly spray a large baking dish (9” x 13”) with a cooking spray. Line the bottom of the dish with six of the corn tortillas. Spread half of the chicken mixture over the top of the tortillas then spread a third of both the cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese over the top.

Layer another six tortillas, followed by the remaining chicken mixture and another third of the Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese. Top the dish with the remaining six corn tortillas and sprinkle the last of the cheese over the top.

Cover with foil and bake at 350-degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Let the dish rest for about ten minutes before cutting and serving.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole, courtesy of Preserving Good Stock

July 18, 2018
: Easily serves 6 to 8

Layers of Southwestern flavors in a creamy sauce blanketing roasted chicken nestled between corn tortillas - with cheese melting throughout! It's a Texas classic!

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 to 2-1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, divided
  • 18 yellow corn tortillas, 8” each
  • ¼ cup avocado or corn oil
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped – about 1-1/2 cups
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped – about 1 cup
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped – about 1 cup
  • ½ teaspoon chopped garlic, about 2 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1-3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, about 4-5 small tomatoes
  • 1 small can mild green chilies, 4-ounces
  • 1-1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, rough chopped
  • 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese – about 7 to 8 ounces
  • 2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese – about 7 to 8 ounces
Directions
  • Step 1 For the chicken:
  • Step 2 Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Brush the chicken breasts with the olive oil and sprinkle all sides with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of the black pepper.
  • Step 3 Roast at 350-degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165-degrees and the juices run clear. Let the chicken rest at least 20 minutes before shredding. If you roast the chicken in advance, store it with the juices to help keep the chicken moist.
  • Step 4 For the tortillas:
  • Step 5 Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush both sides of the corn tortillas with the avocado or vegetable oil.
  • Step 6 Cooking in batches, toast the tortillas in the hot skillet until they start to crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Stack the toasted tortillas on a plate and set aside while you make the sauce.
  • Step 7 For the sauce:
  • Step 8 In a large shallow stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, bell and poblano peppers. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Step 9 Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Step 10 Add the chili powder, the cumin, kosher salt and the black pepper, stirring to blend well into the vegetables.
  • Step 11 Toss in the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Continue cooking over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Step 12 Pour the chicken stock into the pan and stir until smooth. Cook for another 5 minutes to let the sauce thicken.
  • Step 13 Turn off the heat and add the chopped tomatoes, green chilies and the sour cream.
  • Step 14 Chop or shred the chicken breasts. Add the chicken along with the chopped cilantro to the sauce and stir to coat the chicken and blend well.
  • Step 15 For the casserole:
  • Step 16 Lightly spray a large baking dish (9” x 13”) with a cooking spray. Line the bottom of the dish with six of the corn tortillas.
  • Step 17 Spread half of the chicken mixture over the top of the tortillas then spread a third of both the cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese over the top.
  • Step 18 Layer another six tortillas, followed by the remaining chicken mixture and another third of the Monterrey Jack and Cheddar cheese. Top the dish with the remaining six corn tortillas and sprinkle the last of the cheese over the top.
  • Step 19 Cover with foil and bake at 350-degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until the casserole is hot and bubbly. Let the dish rest for about ten minutes before cutting and serving.
  • Step 20 If you’re crunched for time, pick up a roasted chicken at the market and sub the corn tortillas with your favorite tortillas chips.

 



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