Noreen's Kitchen

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Classic King Ranch Casserole! Comfort Food Made Better!

Today I am sharing a southwestern Tex Mex classic!  King Ranch Casserole!  There is some question as to where this recipe actually comes from.  The original inclination is to associate it with the King Ranch in Texas.  The largest cattle ranch in all the world.  However, this casserole contains chicken and there is some idea that the only think "King Ranch" about this casserole is the name.  Probably not too many yard birds running around there!  Some speculate that this was some concoction by the ladies of the Junior League of their day or even some southwestern spin on Chicken A'la King.  No matter where the provenance of the recipe hails from, this casserole is a keeper.

This recipe, in all it's goodness, was originally laden with condensed cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups.  While I grew up with those, I prefer not to use them anymore and opt for a more delicious homemade version.  It does not take that much longer to create your own cream base and it is ever so much more delicious!   It is very simple and will render an amazing result that will make you forsake the canned "cream of" soups for eternity!

Layers of corn tortillas, shredded cooked chicken, cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese, all married together with the comforting blanket of creamy sauce made with chicken stock, cream, bell peppers, onions and the only commercially canned item on the list, Ro-Tel, tomatoes and green chilies.  Those are a must for any self respecting King Ranch casserole!  What you have in the end, is a plate full of comfort food love.  When you take your first bite you will be in casserole heaven and I promise this will be going to your next pot luck or church supper with you because it is THAT good!  This reheats like a dream and holds together beautifully.

I also would add this to my freezer banking list of make ahead bulk dishes that "freeze beautifully" as Annelle would say in Steel Magnolias.  I would simply construct the casserole in a heavy duty foil pan, I like the deeper pans that are approximately 9 x 13 in size. Then cover tightly with parchment paper first, then a double layer of regular foil (I like non stick) or a single layer of heavy duty foil, then I like to put the whole pan inside of a two gallon plastic zip top bag.  This will help the casserole stay fresh and avoid the foil popping off while in your freezer(face it, you know it happens!).  Make sure you write the reheating instructions on the bag so everyone knows what to do!

I hope you give this classic Tex Mex casserole a try the next time you want some delicious, southwestern comfort food and I hope you love it!  How can you not love this?!

Watch how I put this delicious King Ranch Casserole together!

Here is the recipe!  You can get a printable version on my website:

King Ranch Casserole:

6 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1, 10 ounce can Ro-Tel
    tomatoes & green chilies
1 cup diced red and yellow bell pepper
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 pounds chicken cooked and shredded*
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
15 corn tortillas, cut in half

Mix the two cheeses together and set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium high heat.

Add flour and whisk to combine.  Continue to cook for just a minute or two until the flour is absorbed by the butter and the mixture gets a bit bubbly and foamy and releases a bit of a nutty aroma.

Add half of the chicken stock to the pot and whisk briskly to combine.  Continue to stir until the mixture thickens.  This will take a couple of minutes.

When the mixture has become thick, add the remaining chicken stock to the pot and whisk well to combine.    Set this aside.

In a skillet, melt 2 remaining tablespoons of butter and saute' peppers, onions and garlic, for three to five minutes until you can smell their aroma.  

Add the sautéed vegetables to the cream sauce you set aside along with the Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chilies.  Stir well to combine.  This will be the sauce for your casserole.

To build casserole:

Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole or foil baking pan with corn tortillas.  I like to cut them in half and put the flat part against the edges of the casserole dish/pan.  This gives more complete coverage.

Top with half of the shredded chicken, then layer on 1/3 of the shredded cheese.

Evenly spread half of the sauce mixture over the cheese.

Repeat layers of tortilla, chicken, cheese and sauce.  You should have 1/3 of the cheese and some of the tortillas left for the top.
Cover the top with the remaining tortilla halves and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until the cheese is browned and the casserole is slightly bubbly.

The top will be cheesy and crispy and delicious.

Allow the casserole to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

To Freezer bank this casserole:

Build your casserole but do not bake it.  Lay a piece of parchment just big enough to cover the top but not hang over the sides of the pan.  Cover this with two layers of regular foil or one layer of heavy duty foil and seal all edges tightly.

Place the casserole into a 2 gallon zip top bag and remember to write reheating instructions.

To reheat casserole from frozen, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove casserole from plastic bag and place on a baking sheet.

Bake covered for 1 hour then remove foil and parchment and continue baking 15 to 30 minutes until casserole is cooked through, the cheese is melted and the casserole is somewhat bubbly.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

This casserole can be made in advance and freezer banked for up to six months.

Get a printable version of this recipe on my website!