13 September 2011

King Ranch Casserole - Project Pastry Queen

I was so excited to see that King Ranch Casserole was this week's Project Pastry Queen recipe. It is one of my favorites, true comfort food. Even though I grew up in Texas, I never had it as a child since my Dad did not like cheese. (Yes, we had lots of meat and potatoes!). Its namesake, The King Ranch is a National Historic Landmark in South Texas that began in the 1860's. Today, it covers 825,000 acres which is larger than the state of Rhode Island! The ranch does not lay claim to this popular dish, and the history is kind of muddy. This makes sense, because what are ranches in Texas famous for? Ask Oprah ... BEEF!

The basic recipe helped to sell our house back in 1996. It had been on the market for months, and every time a realtor wanted to show it our family was asked to leave. When a realtor called one afternoon, asking to show the house again, I was in the middle of making this casserole for dinner. I told him to bring them over, but we were going to be there. Guess what? They bought the house. The reason? When they saw me cooking in the kitchen, it made them feel at home. They could envision their family living there. What do realtors know??!!

Every recipe I have made (or seen) calls for using cans of cream of mushroom and/or cream of chicken soup. Using a rotisserie chicken makes it that much easier. The Pastry Queen recipe calls for stewing your own chicken, making your own stock and ... NO CANS OF SOUP! I was up for the challenge. Fair warning: If you make everything from scratch, this recipe is time consuming, plan accordingly. 

I have never roasted a poblano chile before, that was the first step. Next time I will roast them till they're a bit blacker. When preparing the chicken and the stock, I wanted more flavor. I added some garlic, onions and bay leaves to the water. I made this the day ahead since it is easier to handle the chicken when it is cool. I discarded the fat from the chicken broth to make the dish a "little" healthier.

The cream sauce is made by sauteing onions, peppers, mushrooms and garlic in butter. Stir in some chili powder and cayenne pepper. Add flour to thicken the sauce and whisk in chicken stock and then some cream. Finally stir in the diced roasted poblano chiles and add a can of Rotel tomatoes. The cream sauce should be thick.

Construct the casserole like a lasagna, substituting corn tortillas for the noodles. Layer tortillas, half the sauce, half the chicken and 1/3 of the cheese, repeat. Finish off with one more layer of tortillas and the rest of the cheese.

The recipe calls for using 18 tortillas and making it in a 9" x 13" casserole dish. I had enough chicken and sauce to make it in my 10" x 15" baking dish and I used 24 tortillas. I served this with a mixed salad with "Ranch" dressing and black beans, but you could do refried beans if you prefer.

This casserole was amazing!!! Next time I will try using a rotisserie chicken to speed things up but I will never go back to the canned soup version again! Jody has the complete recipe at Savory to Sweet. Be sure and check out other versions at Pink Parsley, A Gilt Nutmeg, and Homekeeping Adventures.


  1. I don't know why I have this image in my head that a casserole is all you need on your dinner plate, because yours looks DELICIOUS with the black beans and salad! Going to supplement my leftovers tomorrow night :)

  2. Love the story of the house selling that this recipe is associated with for you! While it may be time consuming to make it certainly looks like it was worth every second!


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