Got Cinco de Mayo Leftovers? Make a King Ranch Chicken Casserole!

It's time to clean up all of those party cups and get hydrated. Upon the cleanup you discover some leftovers from your Mexican feast, but what to do with them now? No worries, many Texans find themselves in the same boat, and not just for Cinco de Mayo. As I've said in a few blogs before, get resourceful and utilize your leftovers! Casseroles are always a great way to go, and Texans have perfected the ideal casserole to create with leftover Mexican food. Like other casserole recipes, you can feed a couple or and entire family with this recipe. The origins of this recipe are debatable, but the common theme is that it's not from the legendary King Ranch in south Texas. Rumor has it that an old, creative Texas ranch hand came up with the recipe, but his name is unknown.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole:

- 2 cups Cooked Chicken, diced or shredded
- 12 Corn Tortillas, or equivalent amount of Corn Tortilla Chips
- 1, 10.5oz can Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken Soup
- 1, 14.5oz can diced Tomato (Rotel works too, which has peppers in it also)
- 1/2 medium Onion, chopped
- 1 cup Monterrey Jack Cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
- 1 cup Chicken Broth (or 1 cup water with 1/2 cube of chicken bullion)
- 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon Cumin
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons Canola or Vegetable Oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sautee onions in skillet until transluscent. Add canned chicken and reheat. Once chicken is heated, add canned tomato, chicken broth, cream soup and spices and stir until combined. Allow filling to simmer for about 5-10 mintues to let the flavors infuse. Prepare a 9x13 inch baking pan/casserole dish by spreading about a tablespoon of oil, or use nonstick spray. Split pile of tortillas into 3 piles, allowing for 3 layers of casserole. Use the first stack on the bottom of the casserole dish. Cover tortillas with 1/3rd of the filling mixture, repeat with another layer of tortillas until all layers are completed. Sprinkle top of casserole with both cheeses. Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Allow casserole to cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Cara's Tips: Casseroles are all about mixing and matching, so don't be afraid to put your own spin on this recipe. When using leftover chicken, you can use chicken fajitas, or roasted chicken in this dish, but other types of cooked chicken can work as well. Some people put in a little bit of red and/or green bell pepper to sautee with the onion. Other's even put a little bit of Jalapeno for extra heat. I've also seen a few casseroles with some corn or even black beans, making it a more complete meal. Herbs and spices are not set in stone either. Throw in chopped cilantro for extra bite, a couple of tablespoons of lime juice for brightness, or maybe some extra garlic and make this recipe your own.

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