Saturday, February 12, 2011

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – October 14, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in The Daily Dish e-zine.

Now I have to get this out of the way:  I’m not from Texas.  I’ve never eaten “authentic” King Ranch Chicken.  I’m sure King Ranch Chicken is just like Philly Cheesesteaks & Chicago Style Pizza – there’s a million ways to make it, what is in it varies from person-to-person, and everyone thinks their version is the right one.

What I’m getting at is this – I have no intentions of arguing with anyone about this not being “real” King Ranch Chicken Casserole.  It looked yummy and I decided to make it.  It wasn’t until I started to write this blog post and decided to read through some of the comments that I saw the “this isn’t the way you make King Ranch Chicken” and “this is an abomination to anyone from Texas” posts.

Now that the unpleasantness is out of the way, let’s get back to the recipe.  Chicken is a staple in my kitchen so when I stumble on a chicken casserole, I’m all in.  What intrigued me about this recipe is the subtlety of the southwestern flavors.  What I did was I used some of the suggestions from all of the variations that were listed below the original recipe to create a final product.  Part lightened King Ranch Chicken and Quick-and-Easy King Ranch Chicken. 

My finished product:

Picture published with recipe:


Pretty close, but I do have a complaint.  First, it looks like they left their corn tortilla chips whole instead of crushing them.  Second, WHAT THE HECK ARE THEY DOING IN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE!  Again, a photo is taken of a recipe that clearly doesn’t use the same ingredients.  If they followed the initial recipe, they should have used corn tortillas cut into ½” strips.  I guess I shouldn’t complain since I chose to use the corn tortilla chip option, but that’s not the point.  Wait, what is my point?  Oh, never mind.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessEH – The chopping is minimal and the rest of the recipe is measure and mix.  The fun of this recipe comes in shredded and cleaning the chicken.  I’ve never found a way to do this easily and mess-free.

Start-to-Finish Time: AROUND TWO HOURS – the recipe says it will take over 2 hours, but since I chose not to make the broth, it drastically reduced the overall recipe time.  Cooking time is 55 minutes to an hour, so with the easy prep and minimal amount of cooking prior to casserole assembly, you should be able to complete it in under two hours.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – You have to chop some basic vegetables, but the fun comes with having the shred the chicken.

Ease of Recipe: COOK IT IN MY SLEEP – All you have to know is basic sautéing of vegetables and mixing up soup.  The actual assembly of the casserole is straightforward, so this is perfect for novice chefs.

OverallYUMMY – Out of all the types of recipes I have read and tried, most of them are poultry and out of those I’d say half are casserole-type dishes.  This one was a stand out.

Recipe Information:
Prep/Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 8 to 10

Nutritional Information
I checked and couldn’t find the nutritional information readily available.  My concern is the amount of sodium since it is using canned vegetables and soups.

This makes a decent sized casserole and paired with a nice salad it should get you to the 10 serving mark.  I absolutely took advantage of some of the calorie and fat reduction tips below the recipe.  I’m not sure how many calories it cut out, but it should be fairly significant.

Changes denoted by red text

1 rotisserie chicken (4½ to 5 pounds)
¾ cup no-fat reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (10¾ oz.) can reduced-fat cream of mushroom soup
1 (10¾ oz.) can reduced-fat cream of chicken soup
2 (10 oz.) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 cups grated sharp reduced-fat cheddar cheese
3 cups crushed corn tortilla chips

Ingredient Notes:
Rotisserie Chicken – Life is made much easier and this recipe is done a lot quicker if you buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.  Try to get one without spices added so that it doesn’t conflict with the spices and vegetables of the casserole.  Of course, if you buy pre-cooked chicken, you will need to have chicken broth on hand.

Chicken Broth
  • I used a no-fat and reduced-sodium broth to help cut down on the excess sodium and fat content of the recipe.
  • The recipe instructs you to make your own broth (while cooking the chicken at the same time).  If you want to try it, you’ll need the same size chicken, clean it and then place it in a large Dutch oven.  Add to it, 2 celery ribs (cut into 3 pieces each), 2 carrots (cut into 3 pieces each) 2½ teaspoons of salt and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for about an hour.  The chicken will be cooked and the broth will be finished.  You can save the left over broth for a later recipe.

  • The recipe has the clove pressed, but I used minced to save myself some time (cleaning and pressing)
  • To save yourself even more time, use the pre-minced garlic in a jar.

Cream of Mushroom Soup & Cream of Chicken Soup – I used the reduced-fat versions of both soups to help cut down on calorie and fat content of the dish.

Chili Powder – the recipe calls for a Mexican chili powder.  I looked around in both the spices and Mexican areas of my grocery store and couldn’t find one that was specifically “Mexican”.  Since I didn’t have time to stop at my local Mexican grocery, I used regular chili powder.

Cheddar Cheese – again, to help reduce the calorie and fat count, I used reduced-fat cheddar cheese.  My suggestion is to get finely shredded so that it melts easier.

Corn Tortilla Chips – I enjoy using fresh corn tortillas, but to save myself some time, I decided to go with the corn tortilla chip version of this dish.  I think the crunch of the chips really added something to this dish, and if I made it again would probably use the chips again as well.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Dutch oven or Large skillet
Large spoon
13x9" baking dish
Spoon – spreading

Equipment Notes:
Dutch oven or Large Skillet – if you’ve got a large skillet that is also deep, that would work well for this recipe.  There is a lot to be mixed in the skillet to use one with low sides.  I don’t have a deep skillet, so I use my Dutch oven instead.

Baking Dish – If you only have a metal baking dish, you can use it since there are no eggs or acidic ingredients that could react with the metal.  However, metal pans may need a little more heat or baking time to get the dish heated through.

(1)  Preheat oven to 350°F.

(2)  Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

(3)  Add onion, and sauté 6 to 7 minutes or until tender.

(4)  Add bell pepper and garlic, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes.

(5)  Stir in chicken broth and next 6 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes.

(6)  Skin and bone chicken; shred meat into bite-size pieces with a fork.

(7)  Assemble Casserole:
      (a)  Layer half of chicken in a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish.
      (b)  Top with half of soup mixture and 1 cup cheese.
      (c)  Cover with half of tortilla chips.
      (d)  Repeat layers once.

(8)  Top with remaining 1 cup cheese.

(9)  Bake at 350° for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Overall this is an easy dish to throw together (and a very tasty one to eat), but you can’t assemble and keep in the fridge prior to cooking.  It will make your chips all soggy.  If you want to plan ahead, make the chicken mixture and store in the refrigerator.  Assemble just before baking.

Remember, if you want to cook your own chicken and make your own chicken broth, do it BEFORE you start sauteing the vegetables.  It will probably taken an hour to make them, so add the time to your overall cooking time as well.

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