King Ranch Casserole

Hold on to your britches, Minnesotans, I’m about to introduce you to a new casserole, ahem, hot dish.  Forgive me for assuming you’ve never heard of this concoction but I had my socks knocked off when I learned about the immense popularity of this casserole as I consider myself pretty well-versed in the subject given my Midwestern upbringing.  I saw this dish on an episode of “Diners Drive-ins and Dives” and took to the internet to find out what it entailed, and it was the equivalent of discovering tator tot hot dish for the first time, with hundreds of recipes, variations and photos at the ready.

Let’s start with the name – King Ranch – a quick Google search will teach you that the source of this casserole’s name is unclear and unlikely named after the ranch that bears this name, mostly because it’s a cattle ranch and this dish is made with chicken.  I heard an interpretation that this casserole was made to serve the ranch hands working long days at King Ranch, but the owners deny that’s the case.  Whatever the reason for the name, it’s memorable.

So, what the heck is this dish?  First, it hails from Texas so it’s going to hit you with Mexican flavors and some heat.  That includes corn tortillas, chills, Rotel and chili powder.  Second, it’s a casserole/hot dish so it’s going to gooey and hearty and calorie-laden so just sit back and enjoy and pretend calories don’t exist.  This hot dish involves layering corn tortillas with chicken, cheese and a spicy white sauce, then baking for an hour.  Simple enough if you have a little time on your hands and don’t mind chopping vegetables (this meal includes an onion, green pepper, mushrooms, garlic and optional chilis) as well as the meat from a roasting chicken.

With no further ado – here it is folks – King Ranch Casserole!  It’s not the prettiest in presentation but my, is it delicious. 

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King Ranch Casserole
Serves 8
This casserole includes layers of corn tortillas, chicken, cheese and a spicy white sauce, baked together until heated through.
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup butter
  2. 1 white onion, diced
  3. 1 green pepper, diced
  4. 8 oz mushrooms, sliced and rough chopped
  5. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  6. 1 tsp kosher salt
  7. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  8. 3/4 tsp chili powder
  9. 1/2 cup cornstarch
  10. 3 cups chicken stock
  11. 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
  12. 10 oz can of Rotel
  13. 2-3 roasted green chilis, finely diced (optional)
  14. 18 tortillas
  15. 2 cups colby-jack cheese, shredded
  16. 1 whole roasted chicken, meat shredded
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onion, green pepper and mushrooms and cook until softened and translucent but not yet browned.
  3. Add the garlic and stir, cooking for 1 minute.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and chili powder, stirring to combine, and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the cornstarch and stir until absorbed and no longer white.
  6. Add the chicken stock to the pan, 1 cup at a time, stirring to combine. The sauce will be thick.
  7. Add the milk, Rotel and chills, stirring to combine.
  8. Spray a 9x11 baking pan with Pam, then layer with 6 tortillas (there will be overlap).
  9. Cover the layer of tortillas with 1/3 of the sauce, then 1/2 of the chicken and 1/3 the cheese.
  10. Cover this layer with 6 more tortillas, 1/3 of the sauce, the remaining 1/2 of the chicken and 1/3 of the cheese.
  11. Cover this with a final layer of 6 tortillas and spread the remaining 1/3 of the sauce over the tortillas to prevent them from drying out. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cheese over the top.
  12. Bake for 1 hour until bubbling and heated through.
  13. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. I save time by buying a rotisserie chicken from the store already cooked so all I need to do is remove and shred the meat.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Steak sandwiches with Chimichurri sauce

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Have you ever tried Chimichurri sauce?  This was a new one for me last summer, something I discovered in a Food Network magazine.  I went out on a limb, fried up a flank steak and served it smothered in the sauce and it was incredible!  Who would have thought this green stuff could be so tasty?  It’s a really great mash up of parsley, cilantro, shallot and garlic, pureed with red pepper flakes and olive oil.  It’s even great the next day, as this sandwich demonstrates.  I took these sandwiches to a pool party last summer and they were a hit, which was my inspiration for making them today – maybe if I make food that reminds me of summer, the weather will warm up?  Something along those lines.  Of course, I couldn’t find the recipe I used last summer so I hunted online for a new version and couldn’t find one I really liked so I made one up using inspiration from each I found online.   I was a little nervous that my experimentation with making the sauce might lead to a funny result but I was fortunate enough that the recipe gods were smiling down on me. 

So when the Krentz men went to work last weekend re-insulating our attic I thought they deserved a lunch that was out-of-the-ordinary as a thank you for their hours of effort.  The result – thin layers of steak piled on top of a baguette, topped with chimichurri sauce and slices of tomato.  Quite tasty if I say so myself.  You can make these and serve them immediately, or spread a little butter on the bread, then prepare these, wrap them up, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Steak Sandwiches with Chimichurri Sauce
Serves 4
Thin slices of grilled flank steak atop baguette bread smothered with chimichurri sauce and tomato slices.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb flank steak
  2. Olive Oil
  3. Salt & Pepper
  4. 1 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
  5. 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  6. 1 medium shallot, diced
  7. 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  8. 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  9. 1 tsp salt
  10. 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  11. 1/2 cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Remove the steak from the refrigerator and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil. Let sit out 30 minutes.
  2. Either on a outdoor grill or on a frying pan over medium-high heat, grill the steak for 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and place on a cutting board to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  3. In a food processor bowl, combine the parsley, cilantro, shallot, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pulse until finely minced and combined.
  4. Turn the food processor on to run continuously and pour in the olive oil to whisk to create the sauce.
  5. The sauce can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for a day.
  6. Slice the steak against the grain into thin slices.
  7. Slice the tomato.
  8. Slice the baguette lengthwise.
  9. Layer the steak onto the baguette, and pour the chimichurri sauce over the steak. Top with tomato slices and the second slice of bread.
Notes
  1. Sandwiches can be made in advance, wrapped in parchment paper and stored in the refrigerator up to 8 hours before serving. The bread will keep best if spread with butter before topping with the sauce, meat and tomatoes.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Guacamole!

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I’ve gained a reputation for being a bit heavy-handed in serving Mexican food when people come over… to be fair, this isn’t a complaint but more of an observation. If it’s a popular Mexican food, I’ve probably made it for you. Tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, carne asada, Mexican chicken soup, the list goes on and on.  I find Mexican food is one of the only universally popular cuisines for all ages and palates – what’s not to like about family-centered meals that are easy to make, have a little spice, can be made ahead and are usually topped with cheese??  Additionally (and selfishly), almost all Mexican dishes are inherently gluten free or can easily be adapted to exclude gluten so not only does everyone get to enjoy a delicious meal, I can eat it as well and not feel as though the group is making a flavor sacrifice on my behalf.

Avocados are a multi-tasking vegetable – they can be used for a face mask, as baby food or for my favorite use – guacamole!  Why the exclamation mark?  Well, because this guacamole is just that good, I could eat it straight from the bowl, forget your chips for dipping. The avocado is refreshing and smooth, and with a healthy dose of fat will keep you full for quite some time (or until dinner is served) and with the addition of tomato, shallot and lime juice you get extra texture, bite and great flavors.

But, I digress.  The title of this post is “Guacamole” so lets get to it.  Any good meal starts with an appetizer, which brings me to guacamole, my standby appetizer for any Mexican meal that I serve.  Regardless of the season or the main entrĂ©e this fan favorite is easy to make, delicious and can easily be made for a gathering of 2 or 20.

Serve this guac with tortilla chips, sliced bell pepper or jicama – incredibly delicious, any way you eat it.

 

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Guacamole!
 
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Bryna Krentz
Prep time:
Total time:
This guacamole is simple to make, incredibly fresh and can be served as an appetizer or topping on your main entree!
Ingredients
  • 3 large ripe avocados
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
Instructions
  1. Slice the avocados in half, length-wise, and scoop the flesh into large bowl.
  2. Using a spoon, lightly cut the avocado to begin mashing it, being careful to not over mix or beat the avocado. You don’t want the avocado to be totally smooth, you’re looking for a slight mash while maintained some chunkiness of the avocado.
  3. Add the diced tomato, shallot, cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice to the bowl, stirring to combine, being careful to not over mix or beat the guacamole – you want this to still have some moderately sized chunks of avocado still visible. Taste for flavor, adding salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips, sliced bell peppers or jicama. Great on tacos, fajitas and nachos!