You don’t have to buy canned cream of chicken soup. I’m embarrassed to say this notion only just occurred to me. Instead, I’ve generally avoided any and all casseroles that call for either cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup. Chalk it up to the childhood trauma that is tuna casserole (and the extreme amounts of sodium). Continuing that lightning bolt, you can make what is basically cream of chicken soup – a béchamel with part chicken broth, part milk. That’s exactly what went down with this King Ranch Casserole.
King Ranch Casserole is a Texas church cookbook staple combining tortillas, red and green bell peppers, chiles and tomatoes in a cream of chicken or mushroom-based sauce. Lisa Fain, of the Homesick Texan, digs into its back story a bit, but regardless of its origins, what has always put me off it aside from the cream of mushroom/chicken connection are the amounts of cream and sour cream used in most recipes. This one, adapted from a Whole Foods Market recipe, is lightened up considerably but is no less delicious.
In a pinch, you can skip the tortillas and instead use crunched up tortilla chips – putting it somewhere between King Ranch and chilaquiles, another delicious Tex-Mex casserole. Frozen spinach, defrosted and rung out, is an easy substitute for the chard.
King Ranch CasserolePrint Recipe
- 7 T. unsalted butter
- 1/4 c. + 2 T. all purpose flour
- 3 c. chicken broth
- 1 c. whole milk
- 1/2 t. salt
- 12 corn tortillas, halved
- 2 large chicken breasts with ribs attached, roasted and shredded
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 small bunch swiss chard (about 5-6 leaves), cut into 1/2 inch ribbons
- 1 10 oz. can Hot Rotel tomatoes
- 2 handfuls broken tortilla chips
- 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
- Non-stick vegetable spray
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375F.
Line a baking sheet with foil and season chicken with salt and pepper. Roast breast side up until they reach 165F, about 40-45 mins. Let cool, then shred into bite size pieces.
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 3-4 minutes to cook away any flouriness. Raise the heat to medium and add the chicken broth and milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. The sauce should thicken. Once it boils, cook for 1 minute more. Season with 1/2 t. salt.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil. Saute bell pepper and onions until the onions become translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the chard and cook until wilted. Stir in tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain any liquid from the pan.
In a large bowl, stir together the shredded chicken, vegetables and cream of chicken sauce.
Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with nonstick spray. Line the bottom with 1/3 of the tortilla halves and top with 1/3 of the chicken mixture. Repeat, layering tortillas and chicken mixture. Top with broken tortilla chips and cheese.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and broil on high for 2-3 minutes until cheese browns, if desired.