The King of Casseroles

Casseroles are not only delicious, but they help us salvage many ingredients and left-overs that still reside in the fridge. What I like about casseroles is you can be as creative as you want! Creating your own casserole is super fun, easy, and it can feed ALOT of people (or provide you with plentiful leftovers).

Today, I want to share my favorite casserole: King Ranch Chicken Casserole. If you have never heard of or tried this casserole before, you NEED to make it as soon as possible – it is very similar to chicken enchiladas in the fact that it contains similar ingredients: chicken, corn tortillas, cheese, etc. (And no, there is no ranch dressing in the casserole)

The very first time I prepared King Ranch Casserole was in my Home Economics class in middle school, and I loved it! Ever since then I have been making this casserole for myself on a regular basis, and in doing so, I have experimented with the flavors and the ingredients. When I was younger, the King Ranch I prepared was good, but this recipe is even better. I consider this an evolution of the original.

The Evolved Method:

STEP 1::::: THE CHICKEN

– 2 Large Chicken Breasts

MARINADE

– 3 Cloves of Garlic, minced

– 1 Tablespoon of Cilantro, chopped

– 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil

– 1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce

– 1/4 Cup of Beer (Corona preferred)

– 1/3 cup of Lime Juice

– 1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar

– 1 tsp of Cumin

– 1/4 – 1/2 tsp of Chili Powder

1) Combine all marinade ingredients together in a mixing bowl and mix well. Then, place the raw chicken in a plastic zip-lock bag along with the marinade. Let the chicken marinate for 3 hours in the fridge.

2) Preheat oven to 375. Place the chicken AND marinade in an oven safe container with lid. Bake the chicken for about 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

3) Remove the chicken from marinade BUT DON’T THROW OUT THE MARINADE JUST YET. Shred the chicken, then place shredded chicken pieces back in the container with marinade. Let it rest in the marinade.

Shredded chicken resting in the marinade

STEP 2::::: THE SAUCE

– 3 Poblano Peppers

– 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil

– 1 Yellow Cooking Onion, chopped

– 3 Cloves of Garlic, chopped

– 1 Tbsp of Cilantro, chopped

– 1 Pinch of Salt

– 3/4 Cup of Milk

– 2 Tbsp of Butter

– 1 Tbsp of Flour

– 1/2 Cup of Heavy Cream

– 1 Can of Cream of Chicken

1)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. After coating the 3 Poblano Peppers with the Olive Oil, place them on a baking sheet and into the oven for about 7 minutes to roast. Turn the peppers over with tongs and roast them for another 7-9 minutes or until the skin of the pepper looks blackened or burned.

This is how the peppers should look after roasting.

2) Peel the skins off of the poblano peppers (the outer skins should peel off easily). USE GLOVES! Then cut open the peppers and remove all seeds and stems. After the seeds, stems, and skin have been removed, place the peppers into a blender or food processor.

3) Saute the onions and garlic in a sauce pan using the other 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil. Allow them to caramelize and turn golden brown. Place them into the blender with the peppers.

4) Place the cilantro, salt, and 1/2 cup milk into the blender. Puree the mixture for about 10-15 seconds.

This should be what the mixture looks like after pureeing.

5) Place the butter into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Place the flour into the saucepan with the butter and allow the flour to turn golden brown.

6) Pour in the poblano mixture. Then add the heavy cream, cream of chicken, and remaining milk to the mixture. Stir over medium-low heat.

The Poblano Sauce

STEP 3::::: The Casserole (Finally!)

– 1 Large Yellow Cooking Onion, chopped

– 1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped

– 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil (for flavor, make it 1/2 Tbsp Butter and 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil)

– The Chicken, drained from the marinade

– 1 Can of Rotel Tomatoes and Green Chiles (mild, medium, or hot: up to you)

– The Poblano Sauce

– 1 Tsp of Cumin

– 1 Tsp of Chili Powder

– 1/2 Tsp of Garlic Powder

– Pinch of Salt

– Pinch of Ground Pepper

– 10- 12 corn tortillas, quartered

– 2 cups of Mexican Blend Cheese

1) In a large saute pan, saute the onions and bell peppers with olive oil/butter until tender and caramelized.

2) Drain the chicken from the marinade and place the pieces with the onions and bell peppers. Stir for one minute over medium-high heat.

3) Reduce heat to medium-low, and add in the Rotel Tomatoes with Green Chiles, Poblano Sauce, Cumin, Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, Salt, and Pepper.

4) Spray a  casserole dish with Pam Spray, then begin placing the corn tortillas in the dish until the bottom is covered. Place 1/2 of the chicken mixture on top of the corn tortillas in the dish. Then, sprinkle 1 cup of the cheese on top of the mixture. REPEAT the layer ending with the cheese on top.

5) Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for about 22-25 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling on the sides of the dish.

The finished product!

Even though this is one the more lengthier recipes, it is WORTH EVERY MINUTE! The sweet-lime flavor of the chicken is awesome with the savory and spicy tastes of the poblano sauce! I guarantee you will LOVE this recipe! 🙂

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