Thursday, 1 December 2011

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Sadly the truth is not always stranger than fiction...

I once read that the wonderfully named King Ranch Chicken Casserole was created by the chef of boxing promoter Don King. I so wanted this to be true, and for a long time I believed it was, but apparently the dish comes from the famous King Ranch in Texas. Gutted...

This is one of the best ways of using up leftover roast chicken that I can think of. Layers of creamy spiced chicken and vegetables, cheese and tortillas, this recipe features two idiosyncrasies of the American kitchen: the propensity to name anything that is cooked in the oven a casserole, and the use of mushroom soup, or so-called "Midwestern Binder" as a sauce. I have dispensed with the frankly disgusting tinned soup and reduced the enormous quantities of cheese, but this is still rich, unctuous and totally delicious!

I can't remember where I first heard about this dish, but my recipe is adapted from a number of sources, the best of which was at Homesick Texan, a blog I would thoroughly recommend.

King Ranch Chicken "Casserole"

Serves 2 to 4 people. I'm not here to judge

Olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 red pepper, finely chopped
100g sweetcorn
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 pieces pickled red jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin, or more to taste
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika, or more to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tin chopped tomatoes
½ tsp sugar
1 chicken stock cube
1tbs corn flour mixed with a little water
200ml milk
160g cold roast chicken, torn into strips
5 soft corn tortillas
100g grated cheese (or fresh mozzarella would be great)
Half a 30g bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

1.    Preheat your oven to 180°C
2.    Heat the olive oil in a pan and sweat the chicken for a few minutes, then add the pepper and garlic. Continue to cook gently for a few more minutes.
3.    Stir in the chilli, cumin, paprika and oregano, and then add the corn, tomatoes, sugar and stock cube. Increase the heat and boil rapidly, reducing to a thick sauce.
4.    Stir in the corn flour mixture and, once thickened, combine with the milk.
5.    Add the chicken and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. The mixture should be quite thick.
6.    Take the pan off the heat. Stir most of the coriander through the chicken mixture, reserving some for decoration.
7.    Put your first tortilla in the bottom of a round pie dish. Spread a layer of the chicken mixture over the top, followed by some cheese. Repeat the layers, finishing with a small amount of sauce and plenty of cheese.
8.     Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden. Serve cut into wedges with a salad or home made coleslaw.

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