Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The king of casseroles: King Ranch Chicken

Casseroles are an ancient dish, found all over the world. Yet for some reason, whenever I hear the word, I don’t think of France (the origin of the name), I think of church suppers, potlucks and home.

We Texans, like most Americans, love our casseroles. Though what usually sets a Texan casserole apart from its neighbors is the spices used. Not shy with the peppers, most Texan casseroles have a bit of a kick. And one of the most popular casseroles we make is King Ranch Chicken Casserole, a soft, slightly spicy, cheesy mixture of tomatoes, corn tortillas, chicken, cream and peppers. It goes down easy and is the ultimate comfort food.

Casseroles today have a sort of retro appeal, yet I find they’re a terrific dish to prepare in the cooler months. Not only can you make them ahead of time, they can also feed many, freeze well and taste terrific as leftovers.

The rise of the casserole’s popularity occurred in the mid-part of the last century, an advent that coincided with the introduction in 1934 of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup—that ubiquitous ingredient found in almost every casserole recipe. It was the rare pantry that didn’t have a few cans of these on the shelf when I was young. And I know people that still swear by it as a secret ingredient, such as my Cajun friend who throws it into his etouffee in place of using a roux.

Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup used to get me in trouble as a kid. Why? Because I was the rare person (maybe the only person) who actually enjoyed eating it as it was intended—as a soup. I liked to alternate eating cans of it with Graham crackers topped with melted chocolate chips as my after-school snack. So when my mom needed a can for a casserole, sometimes she’d find her supply depleted because I’d had the urge to whip up a pot of liquid, mushroomy joy. It was not a pretty scene.

In hindsight, however, I shudder to think I used to savor this pasty white liquid riddled with tiny dots of processed mushrooms. I realize I probably ate it because it was one of the few commercial food items on hand in a house filled with health-food-store fare. Eating it was a bit of rebellion. So now that I’m a bit wiser about food, when I make casseroles today I don’t use canned soup. Instead, I make my sauces with butter, chicken broth and flour. Classic American casserole heresy, perhaps. But the results are just as delicious.

King Ranch Chicken is basically an enchilada casserole, but it’s creamier than most. And yes, most recipes for it call for canned cream soup. This certainly makes preparation simpler, but it can taste just as good without. But before discussing my recipe specifics, let’s take a look at the legend of this dish.

Sadly, the history and origin of King Ranch Chicken is a bit murky. While the name invokes that epic south Texas ranch—so gigantic it covers more ground than the state of Rhode Island—the ranch claims no ownership on this recipe. Some surmise that perhaps it was a ranch-hand that developed the dish, but this has not been proven. Then there are those who say someone tacked on the name “King Ranch” because that ranch is emblematic of the state itself in both its size and its myth. Yet one has to ask why the recipe calls for chicken, when both the ranch and the state are known for its beef.

While the casserole could have been named after the ranch, since nobody has come up with a clear connection to it in regards to this dish, I’ve developed my own theory. Are you familiar with Chicken A La King? It’s a creamy mixture of chicken, mushrooms and bell peppers served on toast. Now let’s take a look at what makes up King Ranch Chicken: chicken (of course!), bell peppers, cream of mushroom soup, with the addition of tomatoes and green chiles (such as a can of Ro-Tel), all layered on corn tortillas. Do you see where I’m headed with this? I believe that someone added ingredients found in traditional Texan dishes—such as the spicy tomatoes and corn tortillas—to their traditional Chicken A La King recipe. In naming this new, Southwestern Chicken A La King they added the word “ranch”—because it conjures up a certain Texan feeling—and did away with the “a la.” And voila! King Ranch Chicken.

But in the end, it doesn’t really matter where the name comes from—it’s how it tastes. This is the quintessential home-cooked meal, a perennial favorite that no matter how sophisticated your palate, you’ll never refuse a heaping plate of the gooey, cheesy, tomato-y delight. It sticks to your bones and makes your tummy warm—plus it travels well and is always a big hit at potlucks.

I’m going to give you two recipes, one of which is my sort-of fancy-pants version that doesn’t call for canned soup. (Though you hardly notice the lack if you’re a true fan of the canned-soup version, and it doesn’t taste too sophisticated—this is still simple food.) The other recipe does use canned soup, and this is one I got from my grandmother (it was a favorite dish served when she and my grandfather used to get together with their friends and play the domino game 42). You’ll also find this version in countless church and Junior League cookbooks—and I have to admit, processed canned soup aside, it’s still tasty.

So if you're looking for an easy yet tasty meal, why not tuck into a heaping, pleasing plate of King Ranch Chicken? Your mouth, as well as your friends and family, will thank you.

P.S. Off topic, but I'm headed to Phoenix next week for business. Does anyone have some recommendations of places to eat?

Slightly Fancy-Pants King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds of chicken, without skin and bones
4 teaspoons of lime juice
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons of butter
1/2 an onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano pepper, diced
1 10oz. can of Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained (or you can use a can of regular diced tomatoes and a 4 oz. can of diced green chiles, or if tomatoes are in season, can use two cups of diced fresh tomatoes with 1/4 cup of diced green chiles, such as a jalapeno)
4 teaspoons ancho chile powder (or chili powder)
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 cup of chicken broth
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup of half and half
1/3 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
3 cups of grated pepper jack and cheddar
10 corn tortillas
Salt and pepper to taste.


Method:
1. Season the chicken with the lime juice, 2 teaspoons of ancho chile powder and a dash of salt. In a skillet heated on medium, cook the chicken in the olive oil on each side for about 10 minutes.
2. When chicken is done (after about 20 minutes), shred it with two forks and set aside. Taste and see if it needs more salt and pepper. Should yield about 3 cups.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium, and add the onions, red bell pepper and poblano pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.
4. Add the garlic, flour, cumin, cayenne pepper and 2 teaspoons of ancho chile powder, and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the chicken broth and cook on low until mixture is thickened, a few minutes. Stir in the half-and-half and Ro-Tel cover the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Uncover the pot, and add the sour cream, 2 teaspoons of lime juice and 1/4 cup of cilantro, and add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
8. Heat up the tortillas (you can do this by adding a bit of oil on an iron skillet and then cooking the tortillas for about 30 seconds on each side).
9. Ladle 1/2 cup of the sauce onto the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking pan.
10. Layer half the tortillas along the bottom of the pan (on top of the sauce). To make sure entire pan is evenly covered, you can rip some of the tortillas into strips to fill any gaps.
11. Add half the chicken, half the remaining sauce, half the remaining cilantro and 1 1/2 cups of grated cheese.
12. Repeat the layering, leaving the cheese layer on top.
13. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Serves 6-12, depending on how big a portion you distribute. Goes great with sour cream and cilantro on top.

Old-School King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Ingredients:
1 cooked 2 1/2 pound fryer (cooked with cumin, onion, celery and garlic) shredded
10 corn tortillas
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, diced
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup of chicken broth
1 can of Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 tsp. of chile powder

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine soups, broth, Ro-Tel tomatoes and chile powder; blend until smooth.
3. Place a layer of chicken in a greased casserole dish.
4. Add layers of tortillas, onion, bell peppers, cheese and sauce.
5. Repeat layers, ending with cheese.
6. Bake uncovered for half an hour or until brown and bubbling.

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190 comments:

Robyn Vickers said...

That looks like the perfect dish for a rainy, autumn day, which is what it is in my neck of the woods. Yum. Wonderful.

Deborah said...

I am a lover of casseroles! This one sounds wonderful - and it's always fun to get a history lesson, even if it is a bit murky!

GeorgeH said...

Canned Cream of Mushroom soup tastes like neither cream nor mushrooms. It tastes like mildewed library paste.
I'd rather not go into how I know what that tastes like.

Kate Wall said...

If you're up for trying something new and different, you can eat Rattlesnake at Rustler's Rooste while in Phoenix: http://www.rustlersrooste.com/

Anonymous said...

You can also make it with crushed up Doritos instead of tortillas.

radish said...

This is great comfort food - perfect for upcoming colder days. In fact, given how freezing cold it is in the office today, I'll be happy to have a portion of it for lunch. Alas, no one serves casserole around my office, I'll have to stick with soup.

intheyearofthepig said...

42...oh man I miss the game. I have taught numerous people how to play, but unless you grew up with it, the appeal for the cunning involved to be a great player just doesn't seem to be there, the games just aren't the same and no where near as enjoyably vicious. My grandpa would regularly lay down after two or three tricks, having a hand that would always guarantee he made his bid, infuriating the rest of us.

My mom used to put broccoli into our King Ranch sometimes to make it more healthy I guess, which I have to say is pretty gross, but with a job, three boys, a husband, and grandparents across the street to feed, I don't blame her for anything she did to save time in the kitchen. Plus cheese, jalapenos, and cream of mushroom soup were sufficient enough to mask the broccoli so that even my little brother ate it.

William Conway said...

The whole soup aisle makes me sad. So many people hate soup because of the endless parade of over-salted, under-flavored cans masquerading as "soup".

This casserole, on the other hand, looks incredible.

Beguile_Me said...

Thank you for your "fancy-pants" version, it sounds delicious! I'm sure I'll be able to dig up the poblano, Ro-Tel, and ancho chile somewhere in the UK ;-)

And thanks for your blog! It's a little slice of home for this expat Texan.

hello sunshine! said...

I LOVE King Ranch casserole! Do you know where to find Ro-Tel up here in NYC? I haven't been able to find it up here and I know my mama would laugh if I asked her to ship some up here!

Anonymous said...

We retired to the central highlands of Mexico. I regularly take King Ranch Chicken to pot lucks in the neighborhood. At first my neighbors (a mixture of Mexicans, Canadians and Americans) didn't know what to make of it. Now it's a regular request and there is never any left for lunch the next day. A pity.

Homesick Texan said...

Robyn--It's absolutely a perfect rainy-day dish.

Deborah--I wish I knew the true origin of the name, but no matter because the casserole tastes so good!

GeorgeH--OK, I won't ask why you know what mildewed library paste tastes like, but I have to admit I am a bit curious.

Kate Wall--Thanks for the tip! I've never had rattlesnake and would love to try some (though one friend laments it tastes just like chicken).

Anon--Yes, some people use crushed up tortilla chips--do the chips stay crunchy or do they get soggy?

Radish--I know! Sadly casseroles are more a homemade dish rather than a restaurant dish. But with the rise of comfort food's popularity here in NYC, I'm surprised there isn't a restaurant devoted to casseroles--if restaurants devoted solely to peanut butter and macaroni and cheese can survive, surely a casserole place would thrive as well.

InTheYearOfThePig--My granparents have tried to teach us grandkids how to play 42, but sadly we're not that good. Perhaps we can brush up on our skills at Thanksgiving.

William Conway--Thanks! And yes, canned soup tastes nothing like the real thing.

Beguile_Me--I think Mexgrocer.uk sells all those things if you can't find them in your local shop. And you're very welcome--thanks for reading!

Hello Sunshine--Do you live near a Key Foods? I've heard they stock Ro-Tel. Especially the ones in Brooklyn. But never underestimate the power of a care package from Texas--she may laugh, but there are just some things, such as Ranch Style Beans, that you will never find in NYC.

Anon--Yep, I've never met anyone who doesn't love King Ranch Chicken. When you have a crowd there are seldom leftovers.

Tatsu said...

Do not believe the hype when you go to Phoenix. Avoid Los Dos Molinos at all costs. The best New Mexican food in town is at any of the Arriba! restaurants. And believe them - the 3 chili marks on the menu are crazy hot. Sam's Cafe might be a good lunch pick.

Ana said...

In my non-texan family, we have a very similar recipe called

Viva el Pollo

6 chicken breasts
1/4 t celery salt
1 onion
Cook and bone chicken.

1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 grated onion
1/2 cup milk
4 oz salsa
4 oz can green chilis
Mix above ingredients together.

3/4 cup grated cheddar
6 corn tortillas

Grease casserole dish. Place 3 T chicken broth in dish. Layer 1/2 of torn
tortillas, chicken, cheese and sauce. Repeat. Bake at 350.

Yvo said...

Oyyy that looks LUSCIOUS! Funny, I always assumed casserole was an American thing; I so think of the 50s housewife and all that jazz when I think casserole. And the Campbell's commercials don't help any! Funny, I used to like eating/drinking Cream of Mushroom as a soup too... and when I got a bit older and was in the middle of "I want to be fat" phase, I used to add a can of that to a can of chunky NE clam chowder and heaven was had. Umm... yea anyway... hahaha. This looks really good and is perfect to bring to work!!!

BTW, thanks for stopping by my new site! I'm glad I am encouraging people - I should post a "Why Bento?" post soon... - it's so good for the environment, too! Unfortunately it's a bit hard to find bento gear in NYC- not impossible, but you've really got to search- so if you need help, just email me and I'll try to point you in the right direction (you'll have to tell me what kind of stuff you're looking for, of course). Oh, or you can hit up my ebay ;) http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZfeistyfoodie I won't be offended either way!

Julie said...

I like casseroles because they're the perfect thing to make on the weekend and then take to work for lunch during the week. This one sounds great and I know my husband would be crazy about it. He can't get enough of that tex-mex sort of thing.

Alanna said...

Great theory on the name -- and the 'fresh' casserole too.

Lydia said...

When I moved to Rhode Island, I landed smack dab in potluck country, where the pressure to come up with new things to bring to dinner can be intense. I've never seen a King Ranch casserole at one of these dinners, so guess what I'll be bringing? The fancy-pants version, of course.

Melissa said...

I am another homesick Texan in NYC, and just picked up a box of Lammes pralines when I was in Austin this weekend. :) Love the King Ranch Chicken - one of my mom's friends gave us a recipe when I was little, and I like to make it about once a year as a treat. It's some serious casserole, ya know?! ;)

christie said...

Not even sure how I stumbled across your site, but I'm loving it! I'm a Texan so many of your recipes are things we eat often and can make without a recipe. The grass is always greener, I guess, as I love to come to NYC to eat!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the tortilla chips do not remain crunchy. But it's easier to cut and serve unless you're really good about tearing up your tortillas into little pieces.

Anh said...

Yummy! I would love to try this... But I have to find where to buy ancho chile powder first...

Kate said...

this casserole sounds and looks so comforting. Surprisingly in our culture we dont really have casserole dishes , thats why they are kind of exotic for me too. If i'm making casserole its defi got to be a big thing. !Like how you 've layered with tortillas. Ive never had that version before. Have to try this out .

Kalyn said...

I made this years ago, and I always kind of wondered about the name. Your theory sounds as good as any I've seen. Like the fancy pants recipe!

Homesick Texan said...

Tatsu--Good to know, I'll look up Arriba!

Ana--Love the name! And that is very similar.

Yvo--It is perfect for work, either for leftover lunches or for sharing with your officemates. Never heard of anyone mixing cream of mushroom with NE clam chowder--talk about cream overload! As for the bento box, I think Danielle found one in Chinatown, but if I don't have any luck I'll hit up your ebay store!

Julie--They are indeed the perfect thing to make on the weekend to reheat during the week. I think they always taste better the next day.

Alanna--Thanks! I wonder if I'm anywhere close to the true origin of the name.

Lydia--Hey! You'll make all your neighbors happy and I bet they ask you for the recipe!

Melissa--Mmmmm, I love Lammes pralines! And it's indeed some serious casserole--fills you up and sticks to your bones.

Christie--Welcome, and you're right, the grass is always greener...you always miss what you can't have!

Anon--Oh well, still, it's a great tip!

Anh--They don't have ancho chile powder in Australia? If they have anchos, you can make your own. Or you could use just regular chile powder.

Kate--It's classic American comfort food! I love that a casserole can be exotic to someone, but then again, foods common to your part of the world are exotic to me!

Kalyn--Thanks! The name is kind of a mystery, but it doesn't really matter because it tastes so good.

Olivia said...

*gasp* Oh my goodness, I had forgotten about King Ranch casserole! Used to love it at the cafeteria at school/college/university whenever they made it.

I can smell it now. Thanks for the reminder.

By the way, I went to El Paso Taqueria on 97th between Park and Madison today with some friends. I had the chile relleno; it was ok, but truthfully I had a more delicious one at a southwestern cafe in a small town outside of London!!!

But all that aside, I LOVE NYC.

Blue Zebra said...

Wow why do I always forget about this treat from childhood!? MY GAWD my grandmother used to have chicken ala King at her DAR and Junior League Luncheons waaaaay back when! CRC is maybe my most fav casserole. Still a little too hot here to whip one up but will think of you when I do!

Also, love 42! My mom and dad used to have the neighbors in to play it weekly. I spent many nights at the Dixie Chicken at A&M playing 42 and drinking ice cold long necks. :D Ah the memories my 3 remaining brain cells have stored up over the years!

Thanks for the smile this morning!

BZ

TexanNewYorker said...

YUM YUM!! Also a recipe from my childhood. And thank you, thank you, for your tact and diplomacy -- I applaud that you've found a tasty "fancy-pants" way to make this traditional dish without condensed soup, and that you still post the original recipe without being snobbish about it's canned soup. In my kitchen, I usually eschew most pre-packaged foods -- except canned soup. I love it anyway! It's comfort food. :)

Oh, and I haven't had any luck finding RoTel at my Key Foods in Astoria, but I did find it in a Wal-Mart in New York State (up in Ten Mile River). I agree with you that there's no shame in having a Texas care package sent -- my parents regularly send me RoTel, Wolf Brand Chili (for super-fast Frito Pies), Chili-Cheese Fritos, and Albert's salsa. Now if they could just figure out how to ship me Owens Sausages!!

Tommy said...

Chocolate chips, graham crackers and Cream of Mushroom soup?

Your Mom must have been terrified.

When did you straighten out your palate ?

tmayson said...

You must, must, MUST go to Pizzeria Bianco, downtown. check out slice.com for info. Easily one of the best pizzas in the nation. A cannot miss.

O'Dub said...

Oh, how we love KRC. When our son visits it's a requirement that we have it for dinner his last night here.

I'm glad for the fancy-pants version. We're trying to cut back on sodium intake and, wow, is the canned soup version full of salt! I was going to come up with a lower sodium version, now I don't have to!

We use flour tortillas and Velveeta cheese in our version, without the bell pepper and chile powder.

Mercedes said...

I love that last photo, of the person holding the casserole! I have a new infatuation with casseroles made with corn tortillas, similar to enchiladas and mexican-style lasagnas, so this sounds great. We don't love chicken, so I was thinking substituting some meaty hunks of portabello mushrooms might be nice.

Anita said...

Did I miss the step where you add the Ro-Tel? :)

(I'm making this tonight -- my mom had a freezer full of chicken thighs.)

I'm just going add it to the sauce...

Homesick Texan said...

Olivia--Yep, it's perfect cafeteria food! Sorry you didn't love El Paso Taqueria. I've been there before, and it's fine, but that's hilarious that the chile rellenos in London are better than the ones here! Glad you're loving NYC! Is it your first time here?

Blue Zebra--This is a indeed a classic DAR and Junior League Cookbook dish. And those evenings at the Dixie Chicken sound like a blast!

TexanNewYorker--Ha! I reckoned enough people would want the soup version that it would be smart to publish it. Heck, it's the one we all grew up with! As for the Owen's, if you freeze it and then overnight it, the sausage arrives A-OK.

Tommy--Yes, my mom was horrified with my taste in food. I reckon I grew up around the age of 23 or so.

TMayson--Yes! I keep reading about this place, and while it seems stange to eat pizza in Phoenix, I'm looking forward to finally trying it, especially since Ed Levine says it's the best pizza in the US.

O'Dub--I love it with flour tortillas!

Mercedes--Thanks! Portabello mushrooms are good, as are beans if you want to make a meatless version.

Anita--Oops! Um, yes, thank you for pointing that out to me. I've updated the entry, but you're quite right--just dump it into the sauce.

Anonymous said...

I loved Cream of Mushroom soup as a kid, and I still do. It's utterly nasty until you cook it and then it just magically transforms into soupy goodness.

As for good places to eat when you visit Phoenix, I know of one. It's called California. You turn left and go until you hit a big body of water. Tell 'em I sent you! :)

Anita said...

Me again, reporting back:

When I told Mom what I was making, she said "Oh, I used to make that!" She promptly pulled her version out of the recipe box. Hers has 2 cans of Ro-Tel and no chicken broth (could it be because it's obviously clipped right off the Ro-Tel label) and looks like gringo chilaquiles in the photo. :)

While it was cooking, she told me it smelled a LOT better than the "real" version, and afterwards, she said it was a LOT better than "the soup kind".

Homesick Houstonian said...

Its funny, I've been trying to come up with a decision for my fantasy restaurant i may or may not open one day and I can't decide between squash casserole or broccoli casserole as a "vegetable" (true texas style menu listing there)... I totally forgot about King Ranch Casserole (obviously not a "vegetable")

I never liked it until I tasted it at Whole Foods Kirby. They pretty much do it like their chicken enchiladas with green sauce... except with more cheese and sour cream. I know the tomatillo sauce may be incorrect, but boy is it delicious with all that sour cream and chicken!!! (the dairy ingredients are mixed with the filling rather than the sauce)

Put that on the list of whole foods recipes i should've printed out before i moved.....

Homesick Houstonian said...

I have that same theory about the name king ranch. I also used to love cream of mushroom until I tried it as an adult and found it disgusting.

Did you know that you had more tastebuds as a child? Children taste things stronger, which is why many kids don't like spinach, broccoli, and spicy or bitter foods. The flavors are simply too strong. As you get older and kill and regenerate your tastebuds over and over they decrease in number, numbing your sense of taste which is why you can enjoy more foods and be more adventurous and its also why some of the sweeter and creamier things are suddenly bland.

isn't it funny, having a sophisticated palate is a matter of having less taste?

Meeta said...

Ummmm! I need a spoon to be able to dig into this. Looks really delicious and sounds truly fantastic.

Texana said...

I hadn't made this Texas delight since we moved to the east coast last year--thanks for reminding me--we had a version of King Ranch for dinner last night (thanks to my prolific jalapeno plant on the patio)--closed my eyes and I was back in Austin. I always enjoy your "take" on things. Keep 'em coming.

s'kat said...

Hmm, I don't think I've ever had King Ranch, but it certainly looks casserole-licious!

Cynthia said...

When I think of comfort food, casseroles always come to mind. Yours makes me want to go make one for dinner this evening.

Homesick Texan said...

Anon--Hey, another one who used to love the canned stuff!

Anita--Yea! Glad it got your mom's stamp of approval!

Homesick Houstonian--That's funny, when trying to decide what to write about, I was vacillating between squash casserole and King Ranch. Tomatillo, chicken and sour cream are three of my favorite flavors together. And I did not know we had more tastebuds when we were children. Interesting!

Meeta--You'll need a very, big spoon!

Texana--Congrats on your prolific jalapeno plant! I'm going to try growing them next year on my fire escape.

S'Kat--I love that word--
"casserole-licious"--I want it on a T-shirt!

Cynthia--Yep, me too. They're so easy and warm.

Blair said...

Skip the rattlesnake, it is served as a novelty and is not even all that good... it tastes like chewy chicken!

It is hard to find rattlesnake made well in Phoenix now, but it not a local delicacy.

What part of town are you going to be staying in? Do you think you might enjoy an Arizona spin on Mexican food? Do you want to try something more exotic?

This guy has fabulous reviews on local haunts: http://feastinginphoenix.com/

I am more than happy to give my perception on some places you may find interesting, but there really is a lot out there! Just email me via my site!

Melissa said...

The closest thing I ate as a child was some kind of enchilada casserole my mom made with ground beef. It wasn't bad (as her cooking went), but I would have much rather grown up on this!

I've never been to Phoenix, but I've heard that there's great gelato to be had there at a place called Arlecchino. Maybe not what you'd go to Phoenix for, but hey...

Scribbit said...

Looks terrific and I can just imagine how it would get snarfed down around here.

Anonymous said...

A North Carolina Texan...Thanks for the nudge to my memory and for the fancy pants version, grew up with the Cream of Mushroom version and in my recent "older snobbier" years abandoned that recipe. I look forward to trying Fancy pants!

Robin said...

Ooooh, I am so excited! I have been looking for a King Ranch Chicken recipe that does not use canned soup for what seems like ages. About a year ago I finally re-engineered Texas Gold Bars with butter and other fresh ingredients instead of margarine and a box of yellow cake mix. Thank you for your brilliant blog... from another homesick Houstonian in New York.

Homesick Texan said...

Blair--Ha! Isn't that what they say about all strange meats? I'm staying in the Biltmore area--thanks for the link!

Melissa--How odd is that? Not only is Phoenix home of the best pizza in America, but it also has amazing gelato? Who knew?

Scribbit--It's family friendly and tummy pleasing--a pan never lasts long!

Anon--Enjoy! It's not quite the same, but I actually prefer it now to the canned-soup version.

Robiin--I LOVE Texas Gold Bars, but I don't think I've ever had them but with yellow-cake mix. A new recipe for me to play around with--thanks for reminding me about them, sadly, I'd forgotten.

Jessica said...

that looks absolutely delicious. I am definitely going to try out that recipe sometime. Thank you for sharing!!!

Sarah McColl said...

Oh my god, I just stumbled across your blog and it's a trip down memory lane. Haven't thought of ranch-style beans in YEARS, but when I would get home and my mom was pulling King Ranch Chicken out of the oven for dinner, I knew it was going to be a good night. can't wait to make this!

Brooke said...

Lubbock here! Just found your blog. I am a Texan born and bread but boy oh boy do I love NYC. It is good stuff! My King Ranch Chicken is my husband's favorite of favorites!

Jean said...

This looks SO good! Love your pictures and I'm glad to have the fancy pants version of the recipe.

For Phoenix we love Bandera in downtown Scottsdale - part of the same chain as Houstons.

You might check out this blog - Feasting in Phoenix - http://www.feastinginphoenix.com/

Jean said...

Two others I've marked to try in the future - don't remember who recommended or why they're on my list :-(

Roaring Fork Restaurant in Scottsdale - http://www.roaringfork.com/index.html

Los Sombreros Mexican Restaurant got an excellent in 2007 from Zagats - http://www.lossombreros.com/

Enjoy your time in the Grand Canyon state.

verily said...

I adore king ranch chicken. This is the recipe I request whenever I visit my parents. My mother, not a native Texan, mistakenly called it "chicken sopa" for ages; she also mispronounces the Ls in tortilla, so I'll forgive her.

Our recipe is slightly different. No broth in the soup mix, and no additional onion or bell peppers. Instead, the chicken is poached in water or broth to cook it. After it's taken out, we dip the tortillas in the leftover broth to soften them up.

iheartmies said...

oh wow,
i made your fancy pants version for my home and a friends.
i loved it.
it reminds me of a dish my mom used to make except hers was more of a white version with out tomatoes but with more green chilies.
delicious.
cant wait to make it again.
ps
(iheartyourblog)

Belinda said...

Wow, this recipe sounds great, and I love the name "Slightly Fancy-Pants King Ranch Chicken Casserole". I'd say that name fits it too. :-) I'm new to your blog..I linked from a comment you left on one of my favorite food blogs. I will definitely visit often!

Garrett said...

Hey Darlin', not sure if you know this but you got a mention in the Sacramento Bee today. Every week the food section mentions a food website to check out and yours was it. :)

Homesick Texan said...

Jessica--You're welcome--enjoy!

Sarah McColl--Yes--any night with King Ranch chicken is destined to be a good one!

Brooke--Howdy, Lubbock! NYC is wonderful, but so is Texas! And I can see why King Ranch chicken would be your husband's favorite--so flavorful and comforting.

Jean--I'd forgotten about Scottsdale--and it's just down Camelback road from where I'm staying. If I have time I need to head over there. Thanks!

Verily--That's a good idea, dipping the tortillas in the chicken broth, I'll have to try that!

Iheartmies--Thanks, I'm so glad y'all enjoyed it! That puts a big ol' smile on my face!

Belinda--Welcome! And ha! Yes, it's just oh so slightly more fancy than the original but not enough for the casserole to be unrecognizable. I look forward to seeing you again!

Garrett--Oh wow! Very cool. Perhaps Arnold will start reading the blog now!

Shannon said...

I had never had King Ranch Chicken before...that is until last night when I made your fancy pants version. Even my chicken-hating husband LOVED it and wants it on our rotating meal menu. Do you normally serve it with a side dish?

Anyways, it was DELICIOUS!

Olivia said...

Technically, yes it was my first time in the city, as before we'd stay with relatives in White Plains and I remember only one evening trip at Christmas, into Manhattan to go to the top of the WTC - about 10 years ago.

O-Dub said...

We made your fancy pants KRC the other night. It tasted wonderful, and had the added benefit of being lower in sodium and fat.

We used Cougar Gold Cheddar Cheese for an extra good taste. If you like Cheddar Cheese, you gotta try this one.

http://www.wsu.edu/creamery/

the Mom said...

I grew up on the King Ranch down in Kingsville, TX. They do, indeed, serve KRC down there. I'll bet that's where it got its name!

Love the blog! I'm an ex-Texan, but couldn't stand to be any further away than Oklahoma.

Kari said...

Oh my gosh!! I just stumbled upon your blog and I too am a Homesick Texan (I'm in Iowa for grad school). King Ranch Chicken...brings me back to the good ol' days. I like your name origin theory. France is one of our six flags after all!

CB said...

This casserole looks great. I can't remember the last time I ate King Ranch Chicken. Maybe the last time I went to church, which was a long time ago.

Will give it a try this weekend with the canned soup of course!

Carrie said...

I ate this for dinner actually. It was from my school cafeteria, but nonetheless it was still delicious! When my mom makes this dish she always cooks extra corn tortillas in the oven until they are crisp and then we eat the crunchy tortillas with the casserole, and boy is it good!

SwedenExTex said...

This is one of those recipes that make me feel real sorry for my husband, who is allergic to every class of poultry. He has never eaten KRC (it's not exactly common here in Sweden ;) I cannot help but pity the poor fella. I wonder if pork could be substituted without losing too much of its appeal.. what do you all think?

This weekend (Nov. 11th) is Father's Day here so I think I will whip up a batch of this and give it to his dad along his gift. The man deserves to be spoiled with some good Tex-Mex and KRC is definitely that! Here is a man whose only experience with Tex-Mex is tacos from a kit--he loves em! I'd say he is in for a treat and it will be my pleasure to introduce it to him and my mother-in-law! Thanks, as always!

Kristina said...

Made this for dinner tonight - the Fancy Pants recipe - and it was delicious! Used Mexene Chili powder which doesn't identify the chhiles used but has alot of depthy flavor and is supposed to be authentic - just yummy! Thanks so much for sharing this!

Jen said...

I made the fancy pants version of this last night. Delicious.

Angel said...

My grandmother used to call this Chicken Enchilada. She would add to the layers onion and shredded lettuce. It was amazing. Sadly I've become allergic to corn. No corn tortillas, *sob*. Not to be undone I've figured out a receipe to include flour tortillas, and it's pretty darn good thank you very much.

Heavenly Chicken Enchiladas
To chicken gravy (your own homemade is best) add 1 can of Ro-tel tomatoes, and warm up. Put 1/2 cup of gravy mixture in bottom of casserole. Put in a layer of flour tortillas (I use Texans recipe, yummy!). Add shredded meat, diced onion, and shredded jack cheese. Another layer of tortillas and gravy, and more meat, onion and jack cheese. More gravy and top with jack cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and melted about 45 minutes. Note: You can also roll the ingredients into the tortillas and lay them side by side in a casserole like more traditional enchilada.

Ri said...

Made three pans of the "Old School" version yesterday, and all were devoured happily, with rave reviews all around! Two were for friends who REALLY needed some comfort (one with two sick kiddos, and one with a brand new baby and a toddler!) - and the other for my darlin' Texan hubby and I.

He relocated from San Antonio to be with me in Virginia six years ago. While he'll ASSURE me that it didn't bother him to leave the Lone Star State, I was there when he had to relinquish his Texas drivers' license..I saw the look in his eyes, poor guy! I do what I can to "make it up to him"...Ro-tel is ALWAYS on hand in the pantry, I make a pretty good no-bean chili for an East Coast girl, and I've learned to make enchiladas from scratch - even the tortillas! (Thanks, "Los Barrios Restaurant Cookbook!") But I have to say, I'd never heard much about KRC, other than a mention of it by his sister once.

Well, can I just tell you...he was over the moon when he sat down to that pile of cheesy goodness on an otherwise non-descript Thursday evening at the end of a rough day's work. Ate like a starving child, he did! So, thank you, thank you for the background and insight into was was a foreign dish to me, but an old friend to him. :)

(And, if he loved the canned soup version, I can't WAIT to see his reaction when I have time to try your "Fancy Pants" recipe!!)

mattjeast said...

FYI, the link to this article from the main page is broken. It has an extra slash after the html filename. I had to come searching for this recipe... and now I must create it. I've only recently started reading this site (thanks to MattBites), but I love it. Keep it up!

LeftyMama said...

Made the old school version last night with some slight mods & one cheat: sweet orange bell pepper instead of green, low sodium/fat cans of soup, store-bought rotisserie chicken, and the addition of a can of roasted green chiles. DEElicious!

As someone suggested, I reserved half of the chicken broth to use for a softening dip for the tortillas, and then I just poured what was left over the top of the casserole before topping with the last of the cheese. All the liquid was incorporated and the casserole was set just fine after baking.

I had a question about the size of pan to use. In your fancy version, you used an 11x7 pan. Was the original old school recipe supposed to be in a 9x13 pan? My old school ingredients did not fit in my 11x7 Pyrex dish (after 3 layers, it was full to the rim and I still had about a quarter of the fillings left over). I wound up making a 2nd little 3 layer casserole in a Pyrex loaf pan, baked an additional 10 minutes longer than the big one. Thus, I used 12 tortillas in all. This is a nice outcome, since I now have a dish to freeze or share with friends.

Thanks for the great recipe!

PLT said...

I'm a native Texan who has been making KRC for 30 yrs. I like using the canned soups because it is quicker and easier. (I use low-sodium, low-fat soup.) Also, don't tear the tortillas, just cut them into strips. This dish is great with Boracho ("drunk") beans and guacamole. I sent my ex-pat daughter in Seattle a case of Wolf Brand chili for Xmas. I also love to play 42, but most of the Winter Texans here in our Rio Grande Valley RV resort never heard of it. Next winter, I'm thinking of giving classes in it so we will have someone to play with.
Thanks, PLT

Nora said...

Hey Lady. :) I'm a displaced Texan in Chicago, and I stumbled on your blog...via links of links...you know how it goes.

My first "dinner party" here in Chicago with friends from Grad School had us all bringing a dish to share. So, I brought something *truly* Texan. My momma's KRC casserole. I think every other dish was left behind in the wake of people clamoring for more. Our recipes are essentially the same, but (as all good trailer trash folk do), I use crushed up Nacho Cheese Doritos in mine. They don't get soggy and they add a little "umph" to it. Totally unhealthy, very trashy, but soooooo good. Now, I'll resume searching your site for other recipes. :)

Anonymous said...

I made both dishes tonight and had rave reviews for both...the fancy pants got more, but the regular was not shabby!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Y'all,
I'm from where King Ranch Chicken originated, from 'The King Ranch' in the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas. It was a rnch hand meal for all the ranch hands. Like fajitas it soon became a popular household meal seved with spanish rice and beans.

Sarah said...

I recently moved to Austin, TX and I wanted to try this recipe after having King Ranch Casserole @ a few restaurants here. I tried your "fancypants" recipe and it was just AMAZING! My partner is from the Rio Grande Valley and she said that as I was cooking she was getting flashbacks of her mom's cooking. I still have a lot to learn about the different peppers and all that, but wow!!!! We were all thrilled with the recipe! Thanks for posting it!!!! :)

heidi said...

THANK YOU! i am an ex-Texan (living in LA for 10 years now!) and found your site while searching for a recipe for this old favorite! i only wish i could find the original one i had from a native Texan family I knew who first turned me onto it back in Houston! ;)

thanks so much!!
xoxoxox

Anonymous said...

OOOOHHHH! I'm an expat Kansan living in Boston and this looks so much like home--and yes..potlucks and church suppers! I'm so happy to find your blog!
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Omit the tortillas and pour the mixture over cooked spaghetti. AWESOME!!!!

T said...

I made the Fancy pants KRC last night for a group of 14 people. I doubled the recipe and it was all gone by the end of the night. Because there were children present I made a few slight changes to keep it from being too spicy...I used one can of Rotel and then a can of diced tomatoes. I also just used one Pablano pepper and one whole red bell pepper. Since I had it in two casserole dishes I put pepper jack cheese in one and Colby Jack combination in the other. Everyone loved it! Great recipe and will make it again. Will also try to the spaghetti suggestion. Thanks so much. (Born in California, lives in Texas)

merp said...

Wow, this was great! We made a double batch for 12 people. I was visiting Seattle in the summer (62º, vs 102º in Austin) and this was perfect for both parties. The Northwest crowd got to taste a Texan treat, and I got to eat a favorite hot dish in the middle of summer. Woo! I offered sour creme/lime juice/cilantro and pickled jalapeños on the side.

Alex M said...

Hey homesick.

I'm an expat Texan living in Scotland, and had missed this dish more than I can say. I managed to coach my Scottish husband through your fancy recipe for KRC and it was fab. It sure hit the spot, specially as I am nursing a new baby and needing lots of extra calories. Perfect as it is "chili weather" as we used to say, here all the time!

Thanks a million!

Anonymous said...

Made this last night for our Johnny Cash-a-rola party. Absolute hit! Thanks, a bunch.

Melissa said...

Just made this for dinner last night. Swoon!

Anonymous said...

Have made your recipe several times and it's always wonderful. Many, many thanks! Thirty-six very lucky people (all Texans) get to eat it next week and they all will swoon and sing your praises.

Roseann said...

My mom used to freeze the more fancy version of this recipe but I've tried it a couple of times and didn't like the results. We have a hunting lodge in the Texas Panhandle and I'd like to find a version of King Ranch Casserole to 'make ahead' and freeze for guest lunches. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Just found your blog - have enjoyed 'smitten kitchen's' blog for some time. I make a killer bread pudding with sourdough and Jack Daniels that is supposed to be an old Texas chuckwagon recipe, I'll send it your way if you'd like.

MarkinLA said...

My mother-in-law just sent me this link to a great chef's restaurant in Phoenix for southern Mexican food (check out her great website): www.barriocafe.com

I'm a native San Antonian living in CA who just had a major craving for KRC today, and luckily found your website. Can't wait to try your recipes! And ROTEL rules, I use it in many dishes, fancy or otherwise.

MarkinLA said...

ROSEANN: I would LOVE to get your Jack Daniels Bread Pudding recipe! I've been wanting to make that for years. Any way you can post or let me know how I can get it from you?

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful recipe!! And what a crowd pleaser; I have seen men eat four helpings, moaning with happiness the whole time.

I recently experimented and substituted left over Thanksgiving turkey for the chicken. (AFTER turkey sandwiches of course!!) You know what? It was GREAT, and froze well too.

This is now my favorite left over turkey recipe.

Kelly said...

I have been making this for years and use 2 cans of Campbell's 98% fat free Cream of Chicken Soup since I cannot stomach Cream of Mushroom soup. It cuts down on the fat content and makess it a little healthier and I love the flavor with the cream of chicken.

I always get rave reviews and no one ever misses the mushrooms or fat!

Anonymous said...

I started making King Ranch Chicken about 35 years ago. Everyone loves it. I haven't made it in a long time but I'm going to make it next week for dinner at church. A caterer who was trying to get business from the company I worked for made KRC as one of their signature dishes. They made it with flour tortillias and it was so bad it wasn't edible. I wanted to call him and tell him how to really make KRC.

Anonymous said...

One great improvement to this wonderful dish is to use charcoal grilled chicken instead of boiled or sauteeed. Incredible!

Jill said...

THIS WAS FANTASTIC. Just made it today for my family. Thank you for a delicious recipe.

Anonymous said...

Canned soup haters-try Campbell's "Healthy Choice" (green label). It actually tastes like mushrooms, tastes good as a soup.

Bill Sappenfield said...

I used a combination of both and have been asked for the recipe which has never happened to me before. I used two cans of mushroom/chicken cream soup and I used one can of ro-tel lime & cilantro and one can of regular. I used chicken breasts only and sauted them in a chile pot so I wouldn't have to use any more pan's than the casserole pan. I make it one day in advance and put in the fridge. I make my own flour tortillas using a regular roller. They thicken out when heated and absorb a lot of the flavor when left in the fridge over night.

Anner said...

I live in Houston and have been looking forever for a King Ranch Chicken recipe that does not rely on cans of soup. I made the "fancy pants" version today and WOW was it ever good. Totally decadent, but totally delicious. Bought all the ingredients at Central Market (sorry Lisa). The tomato sauce would be good on enchiladas, tamales, and I'm sure many other things. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Loved this dish! Made it last night for my family as I am constantly looking for new dishes. Corn tortillas, cumin and cilantro all in one place, loved it!

Kathryn said...

I've been looking for the perfect KRC recipe for a long time and I finally found it in the fancy pants version! The only change I would make is to simmer the chicken in chicken stock instead of the oil. My husband told me that it totally hit the spot today!

Anonymous said...

lol... where I uesed to work, the head "chef" at the cafeteria made a pretty good version of King Ranch Chicken. He got a little too creative from time to time, though, one Halloween he decided to use blue corn torillas instead of the regular ones.... when cooked in the casserole they turned blackish gray....VERY unappetizing...

Working Girl said...

This just tastes like being 10 years old in Conroe and going over to my friend's house for dinner--best washed down with Dr. Pepper. Thanks for this website. If you ever publish a cookbook, I'll buy it immediately.

Mandy said...

Great post! Yes this is a staple in Texas - seen at church, potluck dinners and on most buffet tables. I'm craving it now!!

mrentropy said...

Hi,

Whenever I search for King Ranch Chicken, this is the site that comes up first, so I've used it a couple of times to feed my brood.

So far I've stuck with the Old School but someday, when I get time, I'll try out the Fancy Pants version.

The only problem I've ever had is that my chicken always ended up rubbery and tough. Previously I just used chicken breasts.

The other day, though, I took a whole chicken and braised it in chicken broth, sliced onions, some cumin, and a chopped poblano for three hours and it came out great.

Thanks for posting this :)

Also, I'm a displaced New Jersey guy now living in Austin, TX. I can feel your pain in certain ways. Usually I'm looking for a good pizza, a real bagel, and a deep-fried hot dog, Rut's Hut style.

Sarah in WA said...

You are, by far, my favorite blogger. Your recipes remind me of trips to Houston and my dad's cooking, both of which are quite sentimental.

My dad is from Arkansas, but lived much of his life in South Texas, and even on the coldest days of winter (which he always complained about, apparently when you get that Texas heat under your skin, you just don't ever get it out), up here in Washington State he had a brisket in his smoker at least once a week.

My mom is a northerner, through and through, and learned to broil her meats to a dry hatred and microwave veggies until they wither and die, but her casserole-cookin' comes from my paternal grandmother in Arkansas (read: usually bacon fat and always love). The "enchiladas" she made in winter were much more King Ranch than fall-apart mexi-braised-goodness in spicy sauce. That's not to say they weren't good.

Her "enchiladas" use the same layering and ingredients, basically, as King Ranch casserole, but the very very best casserole was after Thanksgiving. She used the leftover turkey as the meat, which softens up wonderfully in mild green sauce, and the whole she-bang was topped with sour cream and then baked, and the baked sour cream adds a really delightful warm, almost vinegary taste.

Captain Blogozines said...

My mom makes this all the time. I grew up in Dallas/Houston, so this a big family tradition of ours. It is such good comfort food.

Suzy Thompson - Texas DFW Homes said...

I never knew this was called King Ranch Chicken until I grew up and started collecting cookbooks. My mama makes it and we have always called it Roadrunner or Mexican Roadrunner. I thought it was a family secret. LOL
Suzy

dad in up said...

i have made this for years. when my son visits he has to have it and take a pan back home.but i always use turkey. for some reason my husband and son tell me they don't like it with chicken and that it taste different with turkey,go figure. but at least it is a way to use leftover fried turkey.thanx for the awesome site.

aggiecop76 said...

Though I technically live in Texas, El Paso really isn't TEXAS. The first church potluck that I went to where there weren't 20 different King Ranch Chicken casseroles, I wondered if I'd been dropped on Mars! I just skip the whole bell pepper thing and use Rotel with chiles. We have a friend who will almost lick the sides of the casserole dish. This is what my kids always want when they come home.

Anonymous said...

We are loving your "fancy" king ranch casserole here in Austin, Tx! It is a great recipe. It was a cold, winter day when we discovered it a couple of months ago, and it was perfect! Thanks for sharing. We plan to try some of your other recipes after the success of this one. My brother lived in Boston for two years and TexMex was all they would eat on their visits home, so I know you pain...

Mark said...

We made King Ranch Chicken Casserole for my son's 18th Birthday last nite. He was leaning toward enchiladas and tacos but no more. There is a new favorite in this house - we live in Washington, D.C. and it is great having a source for such good Texas inspired food! It can't be beat!

Thanks for providing this recipe!

Anonymous said...

I rarely hear the domino game "42" mentioned anymore! My parents, aunts and uncles played regularly. Also, my husband's family (also deeply rooted in Texas) know the game. My uncle Bob was great at counting each hand. He always seemed to know what everyone was going to play next. Aunt Mae said he cheated, but she was always a little competitive! Fun memories, thanks. -Melanie

Brady said...

I tried your slightly fancy pants recipe, but I added sauted mushrooms. I have to say "it is the best I ever had".

Chelsea said...

This is one of my all time favorites. I'm a texan/oklahoma transplant to DC, and people always love it, and all I can think is "this isn't what your mama always made in a pinch?"

Thanks for showing it off...

Mimi2six said...

I am a Texan,having lived in Houston all my life. I come from a Hispanic background and as far as I'm concerned this Tex-Mex dish is one great comfort food. I like traditional Mexican dishes, that is what I grew up eating, if you were to ask my kids, this is one of their favorite and they don't care if it's considered TexMex or authentic Mexican cooking.

I like to make it with Tostito's or any other crispy tortilla chip. The chips do get soggy with cooking, they take on a tortilla taste. This is so good, my daughter by coincidense is making King Ranch Chicken tonight,the easy version of course. I tell you it's a favorite! No one that makes this or tastes is walks away with an empty stomach or disappointed.

Jami said...

I have been making King Ranch Chicken for years and it is high on the list of favorites for me and my husband. I was pretty skeptical about the Fancy Pants version when I made it last night but we both declared it BETTER than the easy version. I always keep cooked chicken in the freezer for these types of casseroles to make prep a little easier and I mixed everything into the sauce so the only things to layer were the sauce, tortillas and cheese. It was excellent - much richer and more flavorful than with the soups. Thanks for sharing!!!

Mathew said...

Nanna made this one on a regular basis. It really is the ultimate in Texas comfort foods. That is a perinneal favorite at Sunday Dinner.

Mrs. Delicious said...

I discovered your blog in the Texas issue of Saveur and love it. I made your "fancypants" King Ranch Chicken last night for my KRC-fanatic husband, and your version is truly the best I have ever, ever tasted! (Please don't tell my mother-in-law in Temple!) Thanks so much for sharing -- your blog is wonderful. I'm making your Houston-style carnitas this weekend.

Anonymous said...

I was an expat from Texas for 5 years during which we moved 4 times. Florida, New Jersey, Thailand and finally back to Texas. Each time we moved, the first meal I made was always King Ranch Chicken. My recipe is a little less complicated (i.e. Crushed doritos, etc.). I would carry the ingredients in my suitcase along with a casserole dish,etc. . I always tried to instill that anywhere could be home and King Ranch chicken helped us realize this.

Shawna said...

Hi there! I just recently stumbled on your blog - what a great site! I have so been wanting to make KRC but couldn't find the ingredients here. Now I'm one step ahead with your non-soup recipe! Now I just need to see if Amazon will ship Ro-tel to Italy and (the more daunting task) see if I can find cheddar cheese in Italy...hhmmm.....

dorisjean1 said...

I was raised in the North Central part of Texas, then moved to the Chicago area after I married, 30 years ago. I CRAVE Texas meals sometimes, but, it's hard to prepare a meal that no one else seems to enjoy. Since I'm a foodie, I do not prepare anything with convenience foods, so this recipe is perfect for me. I've been looking and looking for this version. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

Ok...I always used corn tortilla in this casserole. Now, however, I use flour tortillas and like it better. And you cut this casserole with a knife and you don't have to worry about tearting your tortillas into little pieces!

beth

Farmer Jen said...

Thank you for the history behind this dish. My mother-in-law gave me her version of the classic old school casserole recipe that she simply called Chicken Enchilada Casserole. I've been making it and enjoying it for 30 years now. I will have to try your fancier version.

Tina said...

~~~I've been living in Ireland for a year and a half and for some reason this week I've been really homesick so I decided to make some King Ranch Chicken. When I told my Irish husband I was making food from home he was nervous so I went online to find a picture to show him (he's afraid of all foods Texan. Course that could be because all the food here is BLAND.) As I browsed your site I became even more homesick, but...somehow it made me feel a bit better, so Thanks for making me feel a little closer to home.
Must admit I had to make quite a few subtitutions in the recipe, but it was still good.

Anonymous said...

This posting comes from the capital of Tex-Mex (Laredo) and I can give 6 thumbs up to these recipes. I just found this site but can guarantee the authenticity of the recipes. Sandra

Anonymous said...

I made the fancy pants version this last weekend, and it is fantastic. I used the mild Rotel because of some elderly that were dining with us. I had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer that I had made in the cooler part of the spring, so the Rotel was the only can that I opened. Really good!

Anonymous said...

So far down this comment will probably never be seen, but I will post it anyway. The original KING RANCH CHICKEN was never made with canned soup; any version I have encountered at office potlucks and church socials was a pyrex dish of muck. Your recipe, minus the green peppers is very close to the original and its stands alone...it doesn't need the soup. Thanks for all the great recipes.

JO said...

I'm making your Fancy Pants version for supper tonight. Can't wait. Couldn't help laughing about 42...we played with my parents last Thursday night and FINALLY won a game. First time we ever beat them! (They've been playing with their high school friends every month for the past forty or more years now.)

Brian said...

Tejanos and Texicans have enjoyed this Tex-Mex treat for years. Thanks for the recipies. Although, I have the family recipe I posted this to RantRave. Loving this little bit of secrets of Texas.

http://www.rantrave.com/Rave/King-Ranch-Chicken.aspx

Cameron said...

Hi, on the old school version you use the phrase blend until smooth, but do not mention a blender or food processor. Should the ingredients actually be blended? Or does this just mean mix with a spoon? Thanks!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Cameron--blend with a spoon.

Beth said...

I found the old school recipe years ago. Always wondered about the name so the history was interesting. We make this alot at home in all seasons. Most people think it looks disgusting whenever they first see it but, if it is made for a pot luck or get together we never have leftovers. I orginally made it to get rid of leftover turkey, but have used chicken also. We like it both ways.

Veronica said...

I made the old-school version for dinner last week--it was so good we didn't mind eating the leftovers for three more meals (we're just two people). I have a little something for you over here: http://reciperhapsody.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/king-ranch-chicken-casserole/

Anonymous said...

I tried this recipe with my leftover turkey and it was awesome! The one thing that I might do differently next time is cook the onion and greenpepper in the chicken stock just a bit to soften them up, they were a bit crunchy.

Anonymous said...

made thie slighty fancy pants recipe last night. boyfriend said that king ranch chicken casserole was all he wanted for christmas. looked up lots of different recipes on internet and chose this one. he absolutely loved it!!!!! said it was better than what he had at a restaurant in san antonio. thank you so much!!!!!! i should get a really good present from him this year!!!
valerie

Audrie said...

Regular corn tortilla tips crushed for the first layer, but left slightly bigger for top layer DO remain crunchy, but you have to use about half the bag! The bottom layer will absorb most of the soup mixture and will be crunchy, but if you drizzle light layer of cheese/soup miture over top layer of whole chips they retain theire crunch even after baking.

dextershaven said...

I always hate to leave comments to blogs that were posted long ago since the author is left confused when they get the e-mail update, but I really wanted to thank you for posting this recipe.

The more conventionally-prepared version of King Ranch Casserole was something my aunt made many years ago, and more recently requested for her birthday. My cousin Googled it and found a recipe (not yours) and made it. After eating it, I decided that for her next birthday I would make yours. Sadly, she died before that birthday arrived so I made it for her funeral. And then I made it again for Christmas Eve, a gathering she had always previously hosted.

It went over very well and I think it may become a part of our holiday traditions. Ever since then I have been meaning to leave a comment. I don't know any more about its origins than you do, so I don't know if you modernized the recipe, or brought it back to its one-upon-a-time home-made glory, but either way I am grateful and thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Hi All,
This is so good, Our local Whole foods in the DFW area makes this. Its close to my mom's Chicken Ole recipe.

I am a Native oklahomian From the might as well be Texas area in SW Ok. there is a small town there called Mangum that has a rattls snake festival. They catch kill(eep!!0 and cook rattlers. You can get your picture made with one too and check out the flea market/ junk sale and carnival. I myself skipped the tasting and the sampling. It usually in early March, My hubby took me of our first date(I didn't hold it against him).They do have a web site, check them out!

To all of you that are having trouble finding Rotel You have my sympothy, I do not know how you survive, I love love it. Muir Glen makes a good fire roasted tomatoe and green chili version and its organic(Whoo hooo!!)

Happy eating!! Kim

Ann said...

I was in San Marcos, TX last Saturday, visiting with my Aunts and Uncle at their home. My Aunt Robbie Lea (you may know her, she is Janet Lynn's mom) made a delicious King Ranch Casserole. This was the first time I had ever heard of it or tried it!

When flew home to California I did a search on line for the recipe and was thrilled to see that you had it on your website.

I'm at my mom's in Sunnyvale and just finished making the slightly fancy version -- it's baking in the oven this very moment. Can't wait to try it!

Thanks for the recipe and your beautiful website. I like to call myself half Texan because my dad was born in San Marcos. Rest assured I'll keep returning to your site for more of your great recipes and expertise!

Anonymous said...

homesick NYC woman in Texas in search of the perfect bagel!
I am fixing King Ranch Casserole for dinner tonight. Thanks for the stunningly easy recipes.
Cheers....

V said...

Substitute the chicken for hamburger meat and you almost have enchiladas. K

Mrs Perks said...

Thank you so much for this receipe. The last time I had it was in University and I could not remember how to make it! I am also an expat living in the UK, and my English husband thinks it is quite funny that all Southern food starts with a can of Cream of Mushroom soup :-) or is fried. Do you actually have a cook book that I can buy? The last Southern cook book I got was from a friend called "How to survive in a southern kitchen without a can of cream of mushroom soup" and it brought back a lot memories of the food I ate back in Texas and also made me very hungry!

Beguile- if you live in london go to a store called Partirdges on Glouster Road, they sell lots of American food at of course inflated prices. There is also a Whole Food on Kensington High Stree which I have been able to find certain American delicacies!

Mrs Perks said...

Hi Just wanted to say that my husband really loved this. I think he was a bit sceptical at first, but after the first bite he was converted! Now onto the Chicken Fried Steak, which at the moment he thinks is wrong on every level!

Timujin said...

I came to Texas to go to school about thirty years ago and haven't really left since. I took the slightly fancy version of King Ranch Chicken to a potluck. Everyone commented on how delicious it was. It went fast!!! I can't wait to try ALL of your other recipes. They rock!!!

Jessica said...

These recipes look amazing! I'm thinking of making it for some friends who just had a baby (the fancy version) and I'm wondering if you have any tips for making it ahead and freezing it? Do you bake it fully and then freeze and reheat?

Thanks!!!
Jessica

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Jessica--I'd freeze it after baking and then to reheat, let it thaw and then cook at 350 or so for half an hour.

Amanda said...

I made this for my family - and EVERYONE loved it. That is not normal for us! It's going on the, "yes, Mom - we want that again" list! Kudos to you! Thanks for publishing!
P.S. We had the fancy pants version.
P.P.S. We live in Texas and my husband is originally from NY! :)

Thanks!!!

Marty Winstead said...

Just found your blog today. I am 6 year Austinite and I made a King Ranch Chicken Casserole for dinner tonight. Afterwards, I was curious about the origin and found your take on it and your fancy recipe. I used a simpler recipe but still it was awesome. I wonder how I lived before knowing about Ancho Chili Powder! After savoring Ancho Chili Chocolate Pie at Z-Tejas here in town, my husband makes one every Christmas. Our Alabama relatives can't get enough of that pie!

Your blog is very fun and everytime I leave the state to go visit family, I can't wait to get home to get a breakfast taco! Hang in there in NYC!

Lucretia E said...

I like King Ranch Chicken but am not a fan of cooking with soup so was excited to see and make the "Slightly Fancy Pants". Loved it! Instead of bell pepper, I used a combination of poblano, anaheim, and jalapeno chiles. The store only had habanera Rotel , which I don’t enjoy, so I opted for a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes/green chiles. Definitely on the list of favorites in our home!

Cookie! said...

I made the fancy-pants version for supper on Saturday and it was amazing! I am not a fan of the can so making the creamy goodness with a roux was right up my alley. Thanks for another amazing recipe!

Nancy Lee said...

We love King Ranch Chicken and I would like someone to tell me some good side dishes to go with it. Don't want to serve just the casserole. Thanks.

cccapn said...

On a friends facebook site,they mentioned this recipe with leftover turkey. It brought back memories of my years in Texas and I thought to try it. I pulled out my moms recipe from the seventies but thought I'd check to see if it had been updated. I tried the spicy version with ground beef instead of chicken (I'm tired of poultry) and yummy! Thanks homesick texan. Relocated texan in the northwest.

Ashlin said...

This fancy pants King Ranch Chicken recipe is the yummiest thing I have ever created in my kitchen. I followed the recipe to a T and my boyfriend wants to marry me now. Do yourself a favor and make this for dinner ASAP!!!

Barbara said...

I'll have to cut back on the cheese and only use salt substitute, but I would love to try this dish. It sounds wonderfully like a supreme comfort food. I'd use your fancy pants version because although cream of mushroom soup is a great base, the hubs and I can't handle the truth - er, salt.

If the casserole doesn't really have roots in the King Ranch, is ranch dressing something made up by corporate America? I never saw anything like it when I grew up in farm/ranch country!

Tria said...

We love this recipe in my household. It makes a ton of food and I can eat it all week for lunch!

I've always gone with the fancy pants version, paring steps back when I'm crunched for time. I microwave the chicken to cook it instead of using an extra pan, for one.

My most recent version was a two day process, as I hand made the tortillas. any way you slice it, it's delicious every time!

Anonymous said...

Definitely go to Carlsbad Tavern. YUM.

yveblogs said...

My best friend here in Australia is texan, has been busted by border security for trying to bring Ro-Tel and Velveeta cheese home with her- no joke!

She has a less fancy version of this which my kids go absolutley nuts for, I'm going to try this one, although Kristen (my friend) claims there is no substitute for Ro-Tel.

Love this blog and so glad I found it- will be sharing it with her soon!
Yve

Patricia said...

I just made the original King Ranch Chicken up in Boston after I saw Rotel at the grocery store and looked up your recipe. It was just as great as I remember, although none I make will ever beat my Grandma's. My boyfriend (a native Bostonian) had of course never heard of it, but he LOVED it. Thanks for your blog-as a homesick Texas in Boston, I really enjoy reading it.

Hunter said...

Just made the fancy pants version and WOW. I'm a young college frat guy tired of cold pizza and leftover pasta, and I must say, you have truly mastered the art of king ranch. I'm a Texan and have lived here all my life, so naturally I have had my fair share of King Ranch Casseroles. Yours has to be my favorite. Nothing beats fresh ingredients and the timeit takes to make is more than worth it. Thanks for a great recipe, the guys have already devoted the whole thing and I doubled the recipe!!

Brenda said...

I just made your fancy-pants version and really enjoyed it :) Thanks for the nostalgic recipe!

Anonymous said...

This recipe is fabulous (fancy pants version). I have made it several times, to rave reviews. If I make it ahead, would you recommend freezing the casserole before baking it, or baking and then freezing?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--I'd bake it before freezing.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful -- thanks!

Mandy said...

I made your fancy-pants version yesterday, and man it was hot. Next time I'll leave out some of the chile powder, or pray for a milder poblano. But my husband, who NEVER eats left overs, went back for seconds, and had the rest for dinner last night. This is definitely going into the rotation of things I can cook.

~Leslie said...

Not sure why I decided to make KRCC on a 103º day in Texas- well... yes I do. My son asked for it and bless his heart- he's doin' two-a-days in football before school starts and I wanted to please him. Crazy thing is- I only had to buy the chicken- which I buy skin-on, bone-in and pyrex with evoo and Jane's Krazy Mixed up salt for 40 minutes at 400º- always. All the other ingredients, were in my yard! Or Fridge- except the 1/2 & 1/2 which- when I was measuring it out went "plop, sloop, dribble, plop, plop." Hmmmm.... Anyway- I love your Fancy Pants recipe and it was a great success. I also made a green roasted salsa to go with- sliced avocados, and MX crumbly farmers cheese... what a hit!

Anonymous said...

I am born Texan and I grew up on King Ranch Chicken. I have made a deconstructed King ranch Chicken in my Crock pot and found that it has become a Family Favorite. I make it more like King Ranch Soup making a cheesy chicken soup base before layering in the classic flavors ( tom. Chicken (shredded) peppers onion ect. then I fry off Some tortilla (corn) strips and put those on bottom and spoon over my King Ranch ( filling) soup over. It's great and no I don't use cream of ? soup. Since it's just as easy to make your own with Chicken stock and mushrooms.

Lisa0825 said...

I have made KRC with corn tortillas and with flour, and I like it much better with flour. They soak up the sauce and become like dumplings. I also use Pace Picante Sauce instead of Rotel, and I use cheddar and Monterrey Jack.

Anonymous said...

One word...FABULOUS! This is a keeper. I added a little jalapeno to kick it up a notch.
Angela in Houston

Monica said...

The best recipe I have ever had was from the version that came out in Cook's Country a few years ago! Super yummy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fancy pants version. I love King Ranch casserole but hate using those salty cream soups.

Sara said...

If you look at old recipe books it's called Chicken Enchilada pie. I always assumed it was called King Ranch because it was made with Ranch Style doritos. At least that is how it's always been made in my family.

Anonymous said...

The Slightly Fancy Pants version is so delicious. I am not a fan of the canned soups!
I used shredded chicken and it was great.

Anonymous said...

Hi from Montgomery, Texas - Birthplace of the Texas Flag - and from a Native Texan. Soooo enjoyed your website for 3-4 years now, but never posted to it before. I go back to "Homesick Texan" repeatedly to get authentic TX-MX recipes and view recipes you have added from time to time. Let me say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you,for all that you do, and I might add that even though the recipes are great, your "stories" related to each one are what makes HT over the top! Of course you already knew that, I'm sure.
I'm still mystified as to how many Texans around here have never tasted any version of King Ranch Chicken - I myself had not had it until about 10 years ago, when my boss at work would occassionally make a double or triple batch for employees, to show her appreciation for all that we did. She always served it with rice as an additional side dish. Sounds crazy, but the two together were smashingly delicious (not for the healthy eating conscious for sure, but neither is KRC by itself either.)
I have cooked a few trainloads of food over the past 50+ years,so am no stranger to the kitchen, but am a little embarrassed to say, I just stumbled across "brining" of poultry a couple of years ago - but whatever.....can't know everything. (none of my friends ever heard of it either.) Of course brining a chicken takes a little more planning ahead, and adds another step to where I'm going with this is. But I think I may have stumbled across a method that takes KRC up a notch or two if I say so myself. I found that brining the chicken, then roasting it in the oven intensifies the chicken meat flavor that I could bet it would win a KRC cook-off contest if there were such a thing. I must admit I have not tried you "fancy pants" version, so I can't make any bets on the brined and roasted version, until I've tried that to compare.
One should note that if using brined chicken,one will NOT want to add any salt to the casserole without tasting the mix first. If the chicken is properly brined, most likely no additional salt will be needed in the casserole.
I prefer American cheese in my KRC, but last time I made this, I used some cheddar, Monterrey Jack, and American (had to combine what I had on hand,to come up with amount of cheese needed) - and my taste buds and tummy thought they had gone to heaven.
Last, as many others have suggested, I use commercial corn wedges/chips, rather than corn tortillas - and they don't need to be crumbled up either, they will soak up the liquid and disburse their flavor through out the casserole - no hard, tough, or thorny pieces to choke on or prick the roof of your mouth.
There, you have it, yet another version of KRC - and I'm probably not the first to try this......Thanks again for your website,Lisa.
Karen

Eryn said...

I am altering the quick-and-easy version by substituting sour cream for the cream of mushroom soup. I expect it will lend it sort of an Enchiladas Suizas kind of flavor.

Leigh said...

My maternal grandmother just got me your cookbook for my birthday (I moved to Canada just over three years ago after living in Houston for all of my life). Reading this recipe actually brings tears to my eyes. My paternal grandmother, who died just after I left Texas, used to make this dish at all of our family gatherings. I never appreciated it as a child. But this simple meal has now grown to represent so much more than food for me. This meal, along with so many others that you write about, have come to represent pieces of my identity that I didn't know existed until I parted with my home state. I cling to these bits of taste and memory as though my life depends on it. Thank you for providing me with all of the wonderful recipes and stories and for making my stomach feel homesickness in a way I never knew it could.

Leigh said...

My maternal grandmother just got me your cookbook for my birthday (I moved to Canada just over three years ago after living in Houston for all of my life). Reading this recipe actually brings tears to my eyes. My paternal grandmother, who died just after I left Texas, used to make this dish at all of our family gatherings. I never appreciated it as a child. But this simple meal has now grown to represent so much more than food for me. This meal, along with so many others that you write about, have come to represent pieces of my identity that I didn't know existed until I parted with my home state. I cling to these bits of taste and memory as though my life depends on it. Thank you for providing me with all of the wonderful recipes and stories and for making my stomach feel homesickness in a way I never knew it could.

Virginia said...

To those of you in places other than Texas (although why you want to live anywhere else is mind-boggling to me), you can order Rotel and all kinds of stuff online now. My son who is in the Navy and gets staioned all over the place used to have me ship him Rotel and other spicy foods but now he can order online. So convenient.

also the soups taste delicious when cooked in the recipe especially if you are throwing it together in a hurry.

Love this website!!

Sooner Laura said...

I made your recipe and loved it I'm sharing on my blog along with my own pictures. I hope you don't mind - I'm totally giving you credit and linking back to your site. Also giving you a plug for the cookbook. Thanks for sharing! (if you have an issue with my post, please let me know and I'll remove it)

Anonymous said...

Lisa... the hits just keep on coming. I was wondering what NEW to do with our leftover Christmas turkey after the sandwiches and the first-time leftover meals were out of the way. So I simmered some leftover dark and light meat according to the Fancy Pants recipe, and then made the recipe as instructed. What a hit!!!

Thanks! eldeetx

KimH said...

I'll tell you how King Ranch Casserole got its name when they're known for beef..

Back in the 60s & 70s (and maybe earlier but I dont remember before then ;) ) The King Ranch raised HUGE and I mean HUGE flocks of turkey's. Like quite a few hundred. They were an impressive sight and they often grazed along side the highway that led out of the Valley. We lived in the lower Rio Grande Valley and when we would drive past the King Ranch when we were kids, we'd beg our parents to stop so we could get a better look at all those turkeys.

The original versions I ever ate & heard of used turkey in them including the versions they made at the school cafeteria. I hated it as a child since its rich cheesiness made me sick to my stomach. After I hit about age 25, my tastes changed and I've loved it ever since.
It was sometime in the 80s when I started seeing people use chicken in it instead of turkey. Why not. Its rare now to see anyone call for turkey for the recipe but either way.. its a tasty dish.

EDF said...

Has anyone ever tried making this with cooked hamburger meat?

Anonymous said...

I am from Kingsville Tx. The original founding place of the King Ranch. This recipe was supposed to have originated from the ranch itself. As far as I can tell the recipe came out in the early to mid 60,s. Brings home some memories.

Anonymous said...

WHERE IS YOUR GRANNY'S RECIPE ???
!!! I'd really like to see it.

Martha in Texas

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Martha--It's underneath the fancy one.

Philip Kinslow said...

So many comments; I'm hesitant to give mine, but. . . . In the Fall of 2010 my wife and I hosted our second annual Wire Fandango Jewelry Retreat at a bed and breakfast in San Antonio. It's a 4-day event in which her group makes jewelry in the morning and does cultural, historical outings and dining in the afternoon and evening. Breakfast and lunch each day and a couple of dinners were part of the package . Our caterer bailed on us at the last minute, so I took over the b&b kitchen each day, cooking 4 lunches and 2 dinners for a group of a dozen people. I used your "fancy" recipe for one dinner. It was hands-down the biggest hit. The attendees still talk about it when we meet. Thank you it was awesome.

Anonymous said...

Angie in Delaware:
My family is from Louisiana, I can't remember a time when we didn't make this casserole...we didn't really have a name-just called it Mexican Chicken Casserole. We all love it...real comfort food. I have now been married for ten years to an Italian man. This casserole has always been something I made at least once a month. I just found out after ten years... My husband never liked it. He ate it and never said a word-I still can't believe it!!! But, I have an 8 year old daughter and she loves it!!! So we still make it and tell Daddy he needs to call Dominoes!!! Make a long story short...this casserole has become our girls night...my sister and 2 nieces come over and the ladies enjoy our girls night with Mexican Chicken!!! I love your blog and look forward to some more southern recipes!!!

Anonymous said...

Make the Fancy Pants one tonight - I live in Houston. It is an excellent and easy. I made the sauce the night before and finished cooking chicken and put it together the next day. Followed the it exactly except for heavy handed with sour cream. Perfect. thank you. Lisa

Susan Weaver said...

reading the two recipes you have posted I will be trying yours... not the original.... hate used prepared stuff when I cook... guess cause that is how I was taught... mom rarely used canned soups...

Heather said...

I made this a couple of weeks ago. It is awesome! My husband said it may be his new favorite meal. After raving to all of his family and friends about it and bugging me to make it for the past week, I'm making it again tonight. Thank you for a wonderful recipe.

P.S. I made the slightly fancy pants versions. Loved using real ingredients and loved the way it made our kitchen smell as I would cooking the peppers.

Emmett Hines said...

Desiring KRC but wanting to avoid canned sodium, I started looking for all-fresh-ingredients recipes. I was amazed to find that the overwhelming majority of recipes that purport to be "from scratch" still rely on canned tomatoes (and usually green chilies as well). This recipe being one of only two that I found to offer a truly "all fresh" ingredient list, I decided to take it out for a test drive. Since I simply CAN'T follow someone else’s recipe without tweaking it at least a bit, I did take a few liberties - like no mushrooms (cuz nobody here likes ‘em), added a ground chipotle pepper instead of the cayenne (for a slightly smoky twist of heat) and an extra bell pepper (for a bit more veggie mass), used heavy cream instead of half'n'half (cuz that's what I had on hand) and an extra cup of cheese (cuz...well...just cuz). It was a hit! A definite do-again. The one additional tweak I'll throw at it next time is to increase the total quantity of corn tortillas by at least half (cuz the one we all wanted was more of was the wonderful flavor of the hand-made corn tortillas we get from a nearby hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant (that is authentic enough that the only menu to be found is scrawled on a chalk board in Spanish and nobody working there speaks any English).

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