Monday, February 1, 2016

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

A Texas staple! This Tex Mex comfort food favorite is loaded with chicken, tortillas, spicy tomatoes, and loads of cheese. A cream soup-free version that is easy to whip up!

Not long ago, I realized that I was completely missing a Texas favorite in my recipe index - King Ranch Chicken Casserole! This casserole is a favorite of most Texans, though it's typically made with cream soup, which I avoid. Making it from scratch is still super easy and tastier, in my opinion.

If you've never had it, think of it as similar to chicken enchilada casserole. Layers of corn tortillas, chicken, and tomatoes are baked together in a creamy cheese sauce. The spice is very mild; if you like spicy, toss in a can of chopped green chiles along with your Rotel tomatoes.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole
15 corn tortillas
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin'
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups chicken broth
1.5 pounds boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4.5 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 450. Spread the tortillas on 2 baking sheets, not overlapping, and coat both sides with cooking spray. Bake until slightly crisp and browned, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly and then break into bite sized pieces. Repeat, if needed, until all 15 tortillas are baked. Put aside 3 tortillas worth of pieces for the topping.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, jalapenos, and cumin and cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the Rotel tomatoes (and their juices) and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cream and broth, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cubed chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. The chicken should be slightly underdone.

Remove from heat and stir in 3.5 cups of the cheese and cilantro until the cheese has melted.

In a 9x13 pan, scatter half of the tortilla pieces on the bottom. Spoon half of the filling over top. Scatter the other half of the tortillas pieces over top of the filling layer and then spoon the rest of the filling over top. 

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the reserved 3 tortillas worth of pieces over top followed by the remaining 1 cup of cheese. Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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