I'm not a food snob when it comes to "quick" casseroles. It brings my husband grief, but I secretly like them all, including green bean casserole, chicken crunch, and my mom's cheesy sloppy-joe-bake topped with biscuits popped out of a can (though I will tweak when necessary). I recently added a new one to my list at the suggestion of a friend (name withheld for their protection). It's called King Ranch Chicken Casserole, a layered enchilada/lasagna-like blast of seasoned chicken, corn tortillas, shredded cheese, cream of chicken soup, and cream of mushroom soup. How had I not heard of this before?
I couldn't find a history to this Tex-Mex dish—even Wikipedia had nothing—but I'm sure it's not a coincidence that most of these casseroles have at least one canned soup in the ingredient list. Would anyone from Campbell like to weigh in here?
While I believe there is a time and place for "open up a can" meals, King Ranch Chicken inspired me to "kick it up a notch." Heck, if I've gotta make a special trip to the only place in Singapore that sells corn tortillas, Belmonte Latin Foods (and pay $5 for 10 pieces), I want this to be really good.
Doing just that wasn't hard nor take a lot of time. I simmered chicken in chicken broth, reserved the flavorful broth for the sauce, and shredded and tossed the chicken in a mixture of Mexican spices and a good kick of hot sauce (no pansies on my ranch). I sautéed peppers, jalapeños, and onions, and used canned diced tomatoes, but instead of the creamed soups I stirred in light sour cream and a bit of flour to thicken. Chopped cilantro is a must, and the scent of the baking corn tortillas will make your kitchen smell awesome.
Straight from the oven, King Ranch Chicken Casserole is a goopy slab of Tex-Mex bliss. And—what a surprise—my better half even went looking for the cold leftovers the next day.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore working on her new baking cookbook, and as a recipe developer for HungryGoWhere Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.