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.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 8 oz mushrooms, sliced and rough chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
- 10 oz can of Rotel
- 2-3 roasted green chilis, finely diced (optional)
- 18 tortillas
- 2 cups colby-jack cheese, shredded
- 1 whole roasted chicken, meat shredded
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- 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.
- Add the garlic and stir, cooking for 1 minute.
- Season with salt, pepper and chili powder, stirring to combine, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the cornstarch and stir until absorbed and no longer white.
- Add the chicken stock to the pan, 1 cup at a time, stirring to combine. The sauce will be thick.
- Add the milk, Rotel and chills, stirring to combine.
- Spray a 9x11 baking pan with Pam, then layer with 6 tortillas (there will be overlap).
- Cover the layer of tortillas with 1/3 of the sauce, then 1/2 of the chicken and 1/3 the cheese.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake for 1 hour until bubbling and heated through.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- 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.