Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recipe of the Week: King Ranch Chicken Casserole

I've always wanted to make this well-known southern casserole, but thought it would take too long to make. With a little bit of organization, it doesn't take as long as I thought. The key is to cook and pull the chicken on a separate day, then make the casserole on another day. This recipe explains how to boil a chicken in the first couple of steps also.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole
makes 8 to 10 servings

1 (4-5lb.) whole chicken
2 celery ribs, cut into 3 pieces
2 carrots, cut into 3 pieces each
2 1/2 to 3 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
2 (10-oz.) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. Mexican-style chili powder
3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
12 (6-inch) fajita-size corn tortillas, cut into 1/2 inch strips

1. If applicable, remove giblets from chicken , and reserve for another use. Rinse chicken.

2. Place chicken, celery, carrots, and salt in a large Dutch oven with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 50 minutes to 1 hour or until chicken is done. Remove from heat. Remove chicken from broth; cool 30 minutes. Remove and reserve 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Strain any remaining cooking liquid, and reserve for another use.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute 6 to 7 minutes or until tender. Add bell pepper and garlic, and saute 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in reserved 3/4 cup cooking liquid, cream of mushroom soup, and next 5 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes.

4. Skin and bone chicken; shred meat into bite-size pieces. Layer half of chicken in a lightly greased 13-x9-inch baking dish. Top with half of soup mixture and 1 cup Cheddar cheese. Cover with half of corn tortilla strips. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining 1 cup cheese.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
*1 tsp. chili powder and 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper may be substituted for Mexican-style chili powder.

Recipe found in the February 2008 edition of Southern Living Magazine

From my experience: Jake's grandparents just moved, so I made this dinner for them as they were getting settled in to their new place; they loved it! My husband even continued to finish off the leftovers with no complaints. As mentioned earlier, I split up this recipe when making it. I roasted a chicken and pulled off the meat one day, then assembled and baked the casseroles another day. I doubled it so I could give the other away since we have so many friends having babies. It definitely helped to divide up the tasks. Another time saver is to already have your cheese grated and tortillas cut into strips. I cut my tortillas into wider strips, so there were less to manage and less of a mess. To lighten this recipe use the healthy version of both soups, reduced-fat cheese and cut the butter in half or use a light oil like canola. I also believe you should use what you have on hand, that may mean a red bell pepper instead of green or Monterrey Jack Cheese rather than Cheddar. I will definitely make this recipe again!

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