Thanksgiving

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

by Shawnda on November 8, 2013

in Chicken & Poultry,Freezer Friendly,Mexican & TexMex,Texas,Thanksgiving

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

That is King Ranch Chicken Casserole. And it’s Texas’ contribution to the category of amorphous, 50-Shades-of-Brown, one-dish comfort foods that taste far, far better than they look.

But I’m not doing it justice.

To describe King Ranch Chicken a little more favorably – and in a manner totally worthy of that warm bowl of comfort that’s perfect for a chilly Texas fall night – think of it as a cross between a TexMex lasagna that’s made with tortillas rather than pasta and a chicken pot pie that’s lighter on the vegetables and sports a topping of corn tortillas and golden brown and bubbly cheese rather than a flakey pie crust.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Absent in this casserole are the much-maligned cream-of soups. If you want to use them, you can. But making the homemade cream-of soup that serves as the base for King Ranch Chicken is only slightly more work than cranking open a couple of cans with a manual opener. And you get to take a pass on all those 15-letter ingredients and the extra sodium.

Present in this casserole is a generous dose of green chiles for mild warmth and a mountain of shredded cheese to contribute to that oozy, melty, and magical amorphous blob.

Did I do it justice that time? Good. Now get out your grocery list and let’s get to work.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Put it on your menu for a stretch of cold nights this winter when your schedule would high-five your for 2 nights of scoop-and-reheat leftovers. Put it on your menu for a week when store-roasted rotisseries go on sale. Put it on your menu to crush those Thanksgiving dark-meat turkey leftovers.

Either way. You’re gonna want to put it on your menu soon.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

The ultimate in Texas comfort food, this casserole is made with homemade cream of chicken sauce and corn tortillas.

Ingredients

  • For the chicken:
  • 2.5-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts (or the meat from 1 precooked rotisserie chicken)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • For the cream sauce:
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1/2 cup cream (I use fat-free greek yogurt instead)
  • 10 oz can of Rotel tomatoes
  • 4 oz can of green or hatch chiles, drained
  • For the casserole
  • 24 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of white and yellow cheddars and monterrey jack)

Instructions

  1. If cooking your own chicken, preheat oven to 425. (If not, you just shaved 30 minutes off dinner prep!)
  2. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper (or your favorite general seasoning).
  3. Divide it into 2-3 foil pouches and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Let sit for 5 minutes before shredding.
  5. While the chicken is cooking, make the cream sauce and reduce the oven to 350.
  6. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan or pot over medium-high heat.
  7. Cook the onion, bell pepper, and garlic for ~10 minutes, until softened and there's no standing liquid left.
  8. Stir in the chili powder, red pepper, cumin, salt, and black pepper.
  9. Add the flour in 2 batches, stirring until all traces of white are gone.
  10. Add 3 cups of the chicken stock to the pot, 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth.
  11. Whisk in the cream (or yogurt), and add the Rotel (do not drain it first) and the peppers.
  12. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
  13. Reserve 1 cup of cream sauce before adding the chicken to the pot.
  14. Lightly oil the bottom and a 13x9 baking dish and place the remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock into a bowl wide enough to hold the tortillas.
  15. Dip the tortillas into the stock (I did stacks of 4 at a time) and line the bottom of the baking dish so that the tortillas are 2 wide and 4 long.
  16. Pour half of the chicken mixture into the baking dish and top with 1/3 of the cheese.
  17. Add another layer of dipped-tortillas in the same manner, lightly pressing on them to level the contents of the pan.
  18. Top with the remaining chicken mixture and 1/3 of the cheese.
  19. Add the final layer of dipped-tortillas and press on them to level out the dish.
  20. Spread the reserved cream sauce over the tortillas and top with the remaining cheese.
  21. Bake for 45 minutes, until bubbly and the top of the casserole is golden brown.
  22. Let sit 10-15 minutes to firm up before cutting into 12-squares and serving.

Notes

Yields: 12 servings

Slightly adapted from The Pastry Queen

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Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

After our Fairy Mermaid Princess (Princess Mermaid Fairy?) waved goodbye to the last of the trick or treaters, we turned off the lights and gave The Little her choice of Hocus Pocus or Charlie Brown to help wind down from the excitement of the night. Because nothing blows a 3 year old’s mind more than seeing other kids dressed in a costume.

Momma, look! That boy has a face on top of his other face!

She, who ended up sleeping in her Mermaid Fair Princess tutu-dress thingy – again – chose Charlie Brown… Christmas. So here we are, on November 1st with the first holiday dessert of the year already half gone.

Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

In my defense, we didn’t have a single piece of Halloween candy left over. So we went with the next best thing for breakfast today: Orange & Cranberry Curd Squares.

You might recognize the recipe from its cousin post, Grapefruit Curd Squares. Because next to a margarita, those bars are still the greatest things to happen to a grapefruit.

And these bars aren’t that far from being the greatest things to ever happen to cranberries. Or cranberry juice, I should say.

Orange and Cranberry Curd Squares

Pies will get their moment to shine but for now, we’re perfectly happy ushering in the holiday season with a batch of beautiful citrusy & tart cranberry bars.

Plus, it’s far harder to pass off a piece of pie as breakfast.

Orange-Cranberry Curd Squares

A citrusy shortbread cookie topped with a beautiful red cranberry curd.

Ingredients

  • For the cookie base:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest from 2 small oranges, divided (and fruit reserved for juicing later... or just eating)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cold and cut into 8 pieces
  • For the cranberry curd:
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice*
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp yogurt or sour cream
  • Powdered sugar, for serving
  • 1-2 drops red gel coloring (optional)
  • *We're talking about the pure, unadulterated 100% "why did I wear white today" cranberry juice, brands like RW Knudsen. Not the juice cocktail kind with pear and apple juice.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spray an 8x8 baking pan with non-stick spray.
  3. Add flour, salt, sugar, 2/3 of the orange zest, and butter pieces to the small bowl of your food processor and process for ~1 minute, until the butter has been completely distributed into the dry ingredients and there are no traces of powder left. (You can do this by hand, it will just take a few minutes longer - just smash the sugar with the orange zest first to better distribute the orange flavor.)
  4. Spread mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan and press down firmly.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges brown.
  6. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  7. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  8. Whisk in the remaining orange zest, cranberry juice, eggs, and yogurt until thoroughly combined and lump-free.
  9. Not overall thrilled with the color of the mixture? Consider adding just a drop or two of red gel coloring. Happy now? Great, let's move on.
  10. Pour over cookie crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, until just set - the center should jiggle but not be fluid when you gently shake the pan.
  11. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes and then run the tip of a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen.
  12. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 12 squares and serving dusted with powdered sugar.
  13. Leftovers will keep a few days covered, at room temp or in the fridge.
  14. Fabulous eaten cold and called breakfast. Not that I'd know.

Notes

Yields: 12 servings

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Lemon Curd Squares

Estimated time: 2 hours

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Pomegranate Margaritas

You recovered from that turkey & football coma yet? My goodness, that was glorious. And gloriously painful. And if we’re talking about the Texans & Cowboys games, just flat-out glorious.

I wasn’t disowned for healthifying the broccoli & rice casserole. My dad was well enough to be up and about for the day. My cousin Sarah did all of the dishes as we cooked (what a novel idea – and what a saint). And I had exactly enough tequila for a pitcher of Pomegranate Margaritas.

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranates are kind of a pain in the ass to deal with. They’re beautiful. They’re delicious. And they’re high maintenance, kind of like the crawfish of the fruit world.

You have to crack the fruit and dislodge the seeds carefully so you don’t ruin your shirt… all while still impressively ruining a shirt and an apron. That apron has since been known as the Dexter Apron.

But they’re beautiful. And they’re delicious. And it’s fun to put them in salad and on salmon or just eat them by plain by stained hand. And when you leave the hard work to the bottled pomegranate juice companies, they make one heck of a beautiful, delicious margarita.

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranate juice makes the perfect winter margarita.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups homemade margarita mix
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cup silver tequila
  • 16 oz bottle 100% pomegranate juice
  • Salt or sugar, for rimming (optional)
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a pitcher.
  2. Pour over ice into salt or sugar-rimmed glasses.
  3. Serve garnished with lime wedges and fresh pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Notes

Yields: 8 servings

Adapted from Tide & Thyme

Estimated time: 10 minutes

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A Very Ziploc and Tupperware Thanksgiving

by Shawnda on November 21, 2012

in Thanksgiving

Getting your house “company clean” with a 2.5 year old is a lot like… trying to clean house with a 2.5 year old. So I mostly put it off, thinking “I’ll do it Wednesday.”

Mop the first floor? I’ll do it Wednesday night. That way it might still look at least a little shiny when the first guests arrive. That big pile of clean laundry? I’ll fold it on Wednesday. (What really crossed my mind: Can I just shove it into the closet and deal with it on Friday?)

For the last few days, today was not going to be a lot of fun. But the glitch in The Matrix that allowed me to host Thanksgiving this year double-glitched and suddenly Thanksgiving dinner is an hour north. Instead of spending the day cleaning, I’m not cleaning!

I’m pre-chopping, bagging, and leftover-bowl-ing everything that goes into everything on our menu while packing up half of my “not company clean” kitchen to take with me. I will arrive with boxes and bags and coolers full of stuff.

And it’s hard to feel the slightest bit mopey about something like that with Christmas Vacation on the TV that’s covered with tiny handprints in my “did a ToysRUs throw-up in here” living room.

So here’s to not cleaning for company but still getting to make a mess in someone else’s kitchen :)

Hope you all have a safe & happy Thanksgiving!

Go Texans!

(And Go Whoever-is-playing-the-Cowboys!)

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