In Texas, there is a staple casserole that is often served to company, potlucks, and taken to grieving/celebrating families: King Ranch Casserole. Also known as, Chicken Sopa, Chicken Tortilla Casserole, Mexican Chicken, or Enchilada Casserole. To be honest, all the names cover about the same type of dish.
It usually looks something like this: shredded chicken, Rotel tomatoes, lots of cheese, tortillas, maybe some veggies, usually canned cream soup. Neither my husband or I can tolerate anything containing cream soup so this dish is skipped when we're served it and is definitely never found on our menu. And while it probably doesn't sound all that appetizing to those who've yet to try it, it really is. It's creamy, cheesy, a bit spicy, and loaded with chicken and tortillas. It's Texas comfort food and a crowd pleaser.
I knew there had to be better ways of making it, that didn't required canned cream soup, and thankfully The Homesick Texan figured it out. Well, actually a friend of hers did - and she calls this dish Racetrack Casserole. But I'm calling it Chicken Tortilla Casserole because it best represents what it tastes like to those who've never had it.
While I thought this would be just a cheap, easy, filler weeknight meal it became a quick favorite at our house. It tasted fresh, it had bright colors, but it still had that cheesy chicken-y kicked up taste we loved. The icing on the cake is how ridiculously easy it is to throw together.
Here it is, straight from the oven. The picture is taken in artificial light so it's not great but I wanted you to see how un-cream soup casserole it looks:
You totally want to grab a fork and dig in, right?
Unlike some of the more soup based casseroles, this doesn't run all over your plate or need to be scooped out. It actually slices up quite well. It's also very versatile; you can use toss in other veggies, use leftover turkey, throw in some hatch chiles, add black beans, or do what I did - add a layer of finely diced black olives because you found a can hiding in your pantry. I just added the olives while layering the dish. As written, this is not overly spicy so kick it up if you dig the spicy stuff.
Chicken Tortilla Casserole
For the chicken:1 3-pound chicken
1 sprig cilantro
1 jalapeño, cut in half
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 3-pound rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/4 cup chicken broth
For the casserole:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and stemmed, diced
5 jalapeños, seeded and stemmed, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes and green chiles, such as Ro-Tel
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnishing
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
10 corn tortillas, quartered
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar
Salsa, sour cream and guacamole, for serving
If making your own chicken: place the chicken in a large pot and cover with 1-inch of water. Add to the pot the cilantro, jalapeño, salt and peppercorns. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken with tongs from the water and when cool enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the chicken. Toss the chicken with 1/4 cup of the cooking broth (reserving the rest of the broth for another use), then taste and add salt if needed.
If using rotissserie chicken meat, just add 1/4 cup of chicken broth to the shredded meat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish or a large cast iron skillet.
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil on medium-low heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and jalapeños and while occasionally stirring cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Add to the skillet the shredded chicken with broth, tomatoes, cilantro, chili powder, cumin and thyme, and stir until well combined. Turn off the heat, taste and adjust seasonings. Add salt to taste.
To assemble the casserole, line half of the tortillas along the bottom of the baking dish or skillet. Evenly spread on top half of the chicken mixture, half of the Monterey Jack and half of the cheddar cheese. Repeat the layering with the tortillas and chicken, then topping with the rest of the cheese.
Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.
Source: The Homesick Texan
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