Disclaimer: This is one HUGE recipe! So ... let me start right out by saying I will make half the recipe the next time I make it for SB and I! The next thing I will say is that it is hard for me to photograph casseroles, as they tend to be a good old mish-mash of wonderful ingredients. This classic of southern style cooking is no exception.
I waste an inordinate amount of time on the Internet playing a computer game called Gardens of Time. It's a mindless hidden pictures game that has a 'chat line' component to play. Teams of players work together in tournaments to gain items for their individual gardens ... this is all beside the point, though. The important thing here is that we Sagittarians (my team) talk, and sometimes we talk about what's cooking in the kitchens all over the world. A couple Sundays ago, one gal from Alabama excused herself from game play by texting, "Gotta run the King Ranch is comin' outta the oven!"
Huh? King Ranch ? I was so curious about what King Ranch could be that I did a little research on-line, as she had already beat feet and was unavailable for asking. And THIS is what I found.
Bright fresh peppers and onions, a browned roux of butter and flour, hot spicy-seasoned chicken breast, a chicken broth and chunky tomato sauce that is lightened with some heavy cream and sour cream, pepper jack and Cheddar cheeses, and corn tortillas. All these ingredients get layered into a long casserole pan like a Tex-Mex lasagna. After a good bake, there sits the most delicious and gooey casserole that ever got smacked on a plate. Pure Honey Boo-Boo fare ...
I made a HUGE salad to 'go with', as this is the Sunday supper that will keep on giving ... right into the week. Can anyone say 'leftovers'? As SB and I were knoshing, we decided that this would be THE perfect casserole to take to a Super Bowl party or to a church potluck dinner or a neighborhood bash. We must have jinxed our Super Bowl hopes, as our team lost big time. Oh well, there's always next year!
Deep South Dish’s King Ranch Casserole
adapted by The Spice Garden
4 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
2 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper or Cajun seasoning
¼ c. unsalted butter
2 rounded tbsp. flour
1 c. chopped onion, medium dice
1 c. each chopped yellow and red sweet bell peppers, medium dice
1 whole poblano chili pepper, seeds and veins removed, chopped, medium dice
1 – 14 oz. can Chopped tomatoes and green chilis
1 ½ c. chicken broth
½ c. heavy cream
½ c. sour cream
2 tsp. lime zest
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
8 large corn tortillas
2 c. grated pepper jack cheese
2 c. grated Cheddar cheese
Making the Casserole:
- Mix the shredded chicken with the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne and a bit of salt and pepper. Set the bowl aside.
- Melt the butter in a large deep fry pan and add the flour, stirring over medium heat until lightly browned.
- Add the peppers and onions and stir everything together, turning the heat up a bit to cook the vegetables until they begin to soften.
- Add the can of tomatoes and their juices and 1 c. of the chicken broth, stirring until a smooth sauce forms.
- Add the rest of the chicken broth, heavy and sour creams, stirring to incorporate everything. Let the sauce cook for about two to three minutes. Turn the heat off and place a generous ⅓ of the sauce and vegetables in a small bowl and set that aside.
- Add the spiced chicken, lime zest, salt and black pepper, and some chopped cilantro to the sauce and vegetables that remain in the pan and bring the heat back up under the pan to warm the chicken through. Turn the heat back off.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F and get out a 13 x 9 inch baking dish – glass works best here.
- Tear the corn tortillas into large pieces, set aside. Mix the cheeses together and set aside.
- Using the reserved vegetables and sauce, place ⅓ of the mix over the bottom surface of the pan. Layer on ⅓ of the corn tortilla pieces to cover the sauce. Layer on ½ of the chicken mixture and then ⅓ of the cheese mix. Repeat the layering, finishing with the cheeses and vegetable mix.
- Poke six toothpicks into the top of the casserole at intervals, so that you can tent some foil over the casserole without it touching the cheesy top.
- Tuck the foil tightly around the edges of the pan and bake the casserole covered for about 25 minutes. When the cheeses and sauce are beginning to bubble, remove the foil tent and the toothpicks and continue baking to brown up the top of the casserole a bit – another 15- 20 minutes.
- Let the casserole rest for about five minutes when you have removed it from the oven. It will spoon out of the pan easier if it ‘sets up’ a bit.
- Serve some small bowls of salsa and cilantro and sour cream for garnishing the casserole servings when they are plated.