Comfort foods abound: King Ranch Chicken and jasmine rice

I started out my cooking career (hah) by making soups, stews and casseroles.  There’s nothing wrong with the simple, and casseroles are very simple.  They’re also comfort food, in part because they are simple, and if you’re not feeding a huge crowd, then the leftovers are fantastic, especially if you work and need a quick meal that’s better for you than the anti-trans McDonald’s.

King Ranch Chicken is one of the easiest casseroles, IMO, to make.  The ingredients are few but make a huge splash of flavor on your tongue and will stick with you for a while so you don’t walk away from the table hungry.

INGREDIENTS:

2-5 Chicken breasts (depending on how small they are and how much chicken you want in there)

1-2 Cans of cream of mushroom soup

1-2 Cans of cream of celery soup

1/4 – 1/2 cup milk

A package of corn tortillas (you’ll use approx. 16 depending on how deep your casserole dish is, how big of a casserole you’re making and how many layers you want in there)

2-3 Jalapeños (depending on how spicy you want it)

2-3 Tomatoes

A large block of mild cheddar cheese, grated.  Keep this in the fridge until you’re ready to begin constructing your casserole.

The first thing you want to do is cut off every bit of fat from your chicken breasts as possible.  This makes sure that you have no nasty surprises to bite into once you’re finally enjoying your meal.

Chicken on Cuttingboard with fat off

Next you boil the chicken.   My recommendation is that you boil the chicken until it’s just barely done.  The chicken will be going into the soup mixture then into the oven once the casserole is put together, so it’ll finish cooking, and this way, it won’t dry out.  There’s nothing worse than dry chicken (well, there is, but I’m trying to coax people to want to eat, not lose their lunches).

Setting up Chicken to boil
Boiled Chicken

Once the chicken is finished, pull it out of the pot and wash it out.  Because I’m fairly OCD about clean up, I re-use that pot to cook the rest of the ingredients (which you’ll add the chicken back into), and this way, you’re not making a huge mess of your kitchen.   And as a side note, as I finish with bowls and dishes that I use to cook with, I wash them so that I don’t have a huge sinkful of dishes to clean up when it’s all done.

Now, while the chicken is cooling down some so that it’s easier to cut up, start with the filling for the casserole.  You’ll need to open your soups and empty them into the pot.  Stir them together, add the milk.  This is also where you add black pepper (if you like) to taste.  I always add black pepper.  While that’s heating up on a low heat, go back to your cutting board and chop up your tomatoes, jalapeños and chicken.

Andy Warhol would be proud
Soup 01
Chopped Tomatos
Chopped Jalapeño
Chopped Chicken
Soup with everything in it

Make sure you’ve grated your cheese ahead of time and put it in the fridge to stay cold until you need it.

Cheese Block
Cheese Grated

Put the tomatoes, jalapeños and chicken into the soup and stir, letting it heat up while you set up your casserole pan.  Spray Pam in the pan, and I even add a little of the liquid part of the mixture into the bottom to prevent the corn tortillas from sticking.  This makes clean up so much easier.

Now you’re ready to begin your layers.  You start with your corn tortillas first, covering the bottom of the pan.  Next add a layer of the soup-chicken mix until the tortillas are liberally covered.  After this, add a layer of the grated cheese.  Repeat the layers in order.  Depending on how deep your dish is, you’ll probably get two or three layers, and at the very last, you completely coat the top with the rest of your grated cheese.  This should be a fairly thick layer to keep all the cheese from sinking into the sauce.

Now you’ve let the oven heat up to 425°, right?  Right.  I recommend that you place the casserole pan onto a cookie sheet just in case some of your soup mixture bubbles up and over.  This prevents you having to clean out your oven anytime soon.  Once the oven is heated to the right temperature, put the casserole in and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and has a few crispy-bubbly spots because that just adds to the Yum Factor.

Corn tortillas
Casserole Layering
Casserole Layering Cheese
Casserole Done

Rice is rice.  I only use jasmine rice myself because of the flavor and fragrance, but Basmati is just as good.  Or if you’re looking at cost, plain long grain white is really good and cheap.   Follow the instructions on cooking the rice, only I tend to use less water so that it’s drier instead of wet.

Once the casserole is finished, take it out of the oven and let it sit for at least five minutes so that you don’t burn your mouth.  Serve with rice.  I also recommend salad as a veggie.

Casserole with Italian Soda

Enjoy this comfort food!

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22 Comments Add yours

  1. This sounds delicious, though I’d probably leave out the jalapenos due to being a wuss and all. Or I’d do Rotel like you’d mentioned, that way I didn’t have to touch the jalapenos. I’m drooling right now, mission accomplished!

  2. If you use Rotel, first off, it’s a different type of chile than jalapeños. Second off, you can get the cans of MILD Rotel, which has literally no spiciness to it. The chiles are there, but you really only get the flavor but not the heat. I think that’s part of why most people use them (other than it’s easier to open a can than chop the veggies). Now, you -could- always just chop up the tomatoes if you want fresh (and take it from me, the fresh does make a difference), and you could just put in a little black pepper. You don’t -have- to have the jalapeños. I’m sure my brother would agree. 🙂 Kass and I just like the spice. Hell, you could also take a really small jalapeño, cut it in have, take out all the seeds and membrane (the white bits) because all of that is what creates the heat, but chop up the actual pepper to put in for the flavor.

    1. Ooooh, ok. That sounds like a good idea, too! I’m sure I’ll try this recipe before too long, because I love me some casseroles.

  3. It’s one of the easiest ones, too. There’s a similar casserole I’ve made called Dorito Delight. My mother and sister found it back when I was little (or before). It calls for hamburger instead of chicken, but I make it with chicken because I don’t like it anymore with the beef. But you essentially do the same mixture and pour it all over a casserole pan full of plain Doritos (or whatever corn chips that are Dorito-esque). Then you top it with cheese and cook for 15-20 minutes on 425.

  4. Lovely Lavender says:

    Sounds much less complex than my version and really good. I’ve used rotel in mine but I do use fresh onion and some cumin and chili powder too. I’ll have to try this version.

    1. I’ve never put onions, but that sounds good. I might have to try some, especially maybe some purple ones for color and flavor. I don’t mind Rotel, but I really don’t use them much because I’ve found it’s easier (for me) to use fresh stuff. I don’t use chili powder in much anymore either. Not even in chili, and that was by a fluke the first time I made chili with fresh peppers and tomatoes. That came out fantastic.

  5. Katy says:

    I want this, like, right now. I’d maybe use poblano peppers rather than jalepenos, or take your suggestion in cutting the spice a bit. I love the flavor, but heat tends to overpower everything else for me.

  6. I think poblanos would be just as good as jalapenos. I mean, the green chilies that are in Rotel aren’t jalapenos. I think they’re some other type of random green chile. I don’t like things so spicy that I can’t taste anything else, but Kass and I do like things a little spicy…just a little bite. 🙂

    1. Katy says:

      Spicy stuff to me seems to be WAY spicier than it does to most people. I do like a little bit though, and I’m trying to build my tolerance up. Rotel might use poblanos? I don’t know. I like fresh ingredients better when they’re available, so if I made this for most of the year, I’d probably try with fresh, though rotel could make it a quicker meal in the winter, especially.

  7. It’s been a while since I’ve used Rotel for anything. I go with fresh even in the winter, but that’s also because we can get jalapenos pretty cheap all year long. And tomatoes can be a pain in the ass fresh sometimes (expensive and maybe not always good looking), but I’d still rather use them than the canned stuff. One of these days, I’m going to make spaghetti sauce completely from scratch. A daunting prospect, but I think I’ll be up for it.

    1. Katy says:

      My mom’s from-scratch spaghetti sauce is amazing, and something I need to learn to emulate. Yeah, Colorado doesn’t always get the best selection of produce over the winter. Frozen veggies (though maybe not tomatoes) are pretty good. For sauces and stuff I don’t mind canned tomatoes, but when possible I’ll go with fresh. Though for the last several months, starting from mid-winter, tomatoes have been really expensive here.

  8. I don’t mind canned tomato sauce or even canned diced tomatoes. I’ve used them for a lot. Just the last few times I’ve made chili or even just pinto beans (or black beans), I use fresh onion, tomato and jalapeno (usually garlic salt because it’s easier), and omg, it’s so good. Esp over rice. Nom. Tomatoes have been a little pricey here, too. 😦 But we still buy them because we use them in so much of our cooking.

  9. Nice Blog with Excellent information

  10. Cricket says:

    Making it for gaming tonight. When I boiled the chicken, I added a can of chicken broth and about a tablespoon of garlic salt to flavor the chicken a bit, and I added a scallop (because I needed to use it before it went bad) so we’ll see how it does. I’ll let you know the verdict! 😀

    1. A scallop? As in the seafood? Or are you talking about a scallion (green onion)? I hope it works out! Let me know. I know that a lot of people make this differently. One friend uses chili powder in it.

  11. Cricket says:

    Um…You know…I have no idea how I’m supposed to spell it. It’s called a scallop (in some parts) but it’s not seafood. It’s a small onion that looks like it was crossed with a garlic clove. But it’s definitely not a green onion or scallion. Really yummy, but REALLY potent.

    Anyways, it came out delicious, but I think I’m going to make two changes next time. 1) I’m not going to use sharp cheddar. It’s a personal favorite of mine, but it came out too greasy. 2) Along with the other soups, I’m going to add a can of Cream of Chicken.

    Also I had two other changes in mine I forgot to mention. I had two pounds of cheese because OMGcheese = delicious. And instead of pepper, I used Morton’s Peppered Season All. It came out delicious, the only problem I had was that boiling the chicken made it a bit rubbery. I’m not sure if boiling was to blame, or I actually didn’t cook it long enough.

    1. OH! Shallots! You’re thinking of shallots, and they are yummy. I’ve started cooking with them. I love putting them in my Chicken Florentine and in the Chicken Friand, but I’ve used them in other things, like the other night, I made a variation of chicken parmesan and I used a shallot and some garlic cloves.

      I don’t like sharp cheddar at all, but then I don’t like a lot of sharp cheeses. Mild cheddar won’t be as greasy.

  12. Cricket says:

    >.< Yes. Shallots. I've been calling them shallots all week. I was even talking to Matt earlier about the shallots and called them shallots, just before my first post. I don't know why I called them scallops here.

    1. I’ve had to remember shallots and scallions before and make sure I got the right names. But since I now cook with both, I can easily remember them. 🙂 Shallots are fantastic. They’re great with pasta dishes.

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