Some time ago, I made an easy-peasy casserole that’s very popular here in Texas (and elsewhere, I’m sure) called King Ranch Chicken. I found out from a few friends that they each make it slightly different, often following the recipe to the letter by using the Rotel tomatoes with chilies or even cans of diced tomatoes and a separate can of jalapenos or other peppers. One friend added paprika and/or cayenne pepper in hers. Still others will use flour tortillas instead of corn (though I had that once, and it wasn’t to my tastebuds because it seemed to be more gummy than with corn tortillas). Like with every casserole, there are probably hundreds of adaptations geared toward what people have on hand and what they like. Since coming to live with my sister and aunt, I’ve made the casserole several times, and here, I have to leave out the sauteed jalapenos or Serranos that I like to use to add flavor and kick because my aunt sadly can’t handle spicy foods. It’s not as easy to adapt the sauce to have spice for three of us and leave out the spice for one when dealing with a casserole, as it is when I make Chicken Tikka Masala or even the Spicy Ginger Chicken.
Anyway, so many months ago this year, I had chicken to cook for the family, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. I rummaged through the cabinet and found a can of cream of mushroom soup. I had tomatoes I could dice. I had mild cheddar cheese (because none of us here can really handle sharp). So I concocted an idea. Essentially, what I came up with was King Ranch Chicken that wasn’t in casserole form and does not have the corn tortillas. Which is great for anyone who’s allergic to corn, like one of my BFFs.
I guess I would have to just call this dish “A King without a Crown” = the crown being gold, gold being equated with corn. It’s very easy to put together. You can serve it with any vegetable, and if you wanted to avoid the carbs, you could cut out the rice as a side dish (though where you’d put the extra sauce, I don’t know).
1 large head of cabbage, broken into smaller florets
2-3 tbsp EVOO
1-2 tsp large crushed sea salt
2-4 chicken breasts, pounded out somewhat thin
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
2 tbsp butter
1-1 1/2 cup milk
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper, diced, sauteed in oil until just soft
1-2 cups of grated mild cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Jasmine rice, enough for everyone to have a serving
1. Heat oven to 425ºF. Spray casserole or cake pan with Pam. Cut up cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and set into the dish with the floret sides up. Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with sea salt. Toss the cauliflower and oil/salt until it’s all coated, and once more, turn it floret side up. Place in oven and cook for 30-35 minutes until it starts to turn golden/brown.
2. Dice the tomatoes. Pound the chicken until thin. Open can of soup, and measure out the milk.
3. Melt butter in the pan (make sure your frying pan is big/deep enough to hold the amount of sauce you’ll wind up with. Salt/pepper chicken on both sides and then place in pan to start cooking. Brown on both sides, make sure that it’s mostly done all the way through.
4. Add in the mushroom soup. Spread across the chicken so that each piece is coated. Add milk on top of that to thin out for the sauce.
5. Once the chicken is completely coated on both sides, set aside on a cookie sheet — I recommend putting down aluminum foil and spraying that with Pam, too. Add enough of the grated cheese to each chicken breast so that when it melts, it covers the top of the breast. Place this into the oven during the last bit of time the cauliflower has (or if you’re not roasting a veggie in the oven, turn the oven temperature to broiler and put the chicken underneath) long enough for the cheese to melt, bubble, and even brown just a little.
6. While the chicken is in the oven and the rice is finishing, turn the stove temperature down to low or medium-low and keep stirring the sauce so it will smooth out and not stick. Add in the diced tomatoes and pepper to taste. If you were adding in sauteed peppers, this would be the time to add them into the sauce. Once everything is stirred in, turn down to low to keep warm.
7. Take the chicken out of the oven when the cheese is perfectly melted, bubbly, & slightly brown if you like.
8. Plate up. Spoon sauce onto rice. Eat eat eat eat and enjoy!