Chicken Dinners: Ultimate King Ranch Casserole

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Yvonne Ruperti

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.