Serves a Crowd

King Ranch Chicken

March  3, 2013
Author Notes

There is some debate about the true origin of King Ranch Chicken. I prefer to think that a cook on that gigantic spread of land came up with the original while trying to feed a whole gang of hungry ranch hands. This dish is something like pot pie meets enchilada casserole. There are as many versions as people who cook it - some folks go with canned cream of things soups while others (me) make the gravy themselves, some use tortillas (me) or tortilla chips, and I hear tell of one lovely and genius lady who uses Doritos Cool Ranch chips (I am going to have to try that version). This is not a quick weeknight meal, not the way I make it. You won't see it in Jenny's feature unless Jenny has a long afternoon off. But when you do make it the hungry hoards will be on it like a rooster on a junebug, and they will be full and happy in no time. You need a deep dish 13x9 to bake this - I mean deep, a regular pyrex won't hold it all. It's that big. —aargersi

  • Serves 8-10
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 dried guajillo, cascabel or anaheim chili, or 1 ancho (I used guajillo)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms - stemmed and sliced 1/4" thick
  • 1 red bell pepper - 1/4" dice
  • 2 poblano peppers - 1/4" dice
  • 1/2 red onion - 1/4" dice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 large cloves garlic - pressed or minced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 cups grated jack and cheddar cheese
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 - 14.5 ounces cans diced tomatoes with chilis
  • salt and pepper
In This Recipe
  1. Poach the chicken - place it in a pan large enough to accommodate the chicken in single layer. (I use my Dutch oven for all of this) Add the dried chilis and the broth. Bring the broth to a simmer, and then simmer gently for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow the chicken to sit 10 more minutes. Remove the chicken and shred it with 2 forks - I like to keep it in some hunks, but if you want to shred it completely, by all means. Strain the broth and save it.
  2. Melt 3 tbs of the butter over med-high in the pan, and add the mushrooms. Season them with a pinch of salt, and allow them to get brown and crisp. Don't mess with them too much. Remember Julie and Julia? DON'T CROWD THE MUSHROOMS! You really want crispy brown lovlies. Turn them and brown both sides, then remove them to a bowl. Add another tbs of butter to the pan, and then add both peppers and the onion. Season with a pinch of salt. These don't need to brown, you really just want to soften them. When they are ready scoop them into a bowl (I just add them to the mushroom bowl)
  3. OK now - add the rest of the butter to the pan, and the cumin. After about a minute, add the garlic, then after another minute add the flour and stir to make a roux. Let that cook for a couple of minutes. Now the whisking starts - whisk in the milk, breaking up and lumps as you go. Then whisk in that broth that you saved. Bring the whole thing to a simmer and keep whisking - it's not going to get as thick as gravy - but it will be kind of thick. Whisk in the sour cream. NOW - dump the mushrooms peppers and onion back in and taste for salt and pepper. At this point you might be tempted to just add the chicken and eat it as a soup - but forge on.
  4. Heat the oven to 350. Spread half of one of the cans of tomato on the bottom of the baking dish. Cut the tortillas in half, and then arrange the overlapping in the pan - I find 3 up each long side 2 along each short side and 2 down the middle works perfectly. Now spread half the chicken over the tortillas, dd the other half can of tomatoes, then ladle half of that gravy stuff on. Layer the remaining tortillas, chicken, the whole can of tomatoes, then the rest of the gravy. Spread the cheese over the top of the whole thing. Put the casserole on a baking sheet and into the oven. Bake it for about an hour until the cheese is golden brown and everything is bubbly. Allow it to rest for about 15 minutes before serving.
  5. Eat. Burp. Check the horses and cattle. Nap.

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I work in databases by day, but creativity is my outlet. Food - imagining it, making it, sharing it. And art, I come from a family of artists and have been collaging in my garage studio. You can see my work on Etsy in my shop AbbiesGarage