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King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken: A Tex-Mex Comfort Food Classic

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Prepare to indulge in the rich and comforting flavors of King Ranch Chicken, a beloved Tex-Mex casserole that’s sure to satisfy even the heartiest appetite. This dish, with its layers of tender chicken, vibrant peppers, zesty tomatoes, and gooey cheese, is a true crowd-pleaser that’s perfect for family dinners, potlucks, or casual gatherings. Join us as we dive into the world of King Ranch Chicken and discover how to make this iconic dish from scratch, along with tips, variations, and answers to your most frequently asked questions!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small jalapeno, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 pinches ground cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 6-inch white or yellow corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch segments
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
  • 1 can (10 ounces) Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar jack cheese or any Mexican blend
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the Oven:
    • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. Prepare the Vegetable Mixture:
    • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced green bell pepper, red bell pepper, onion, jalapeno, and minced garlic. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Make the Sauce:
    • In the same skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in the all-purpose flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.
    • Gradually whisk in the chicken broth, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Cook until the mixture thickens, about 3-5 minutes.
    • Stir in the ground cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, and black pepper, adjusting the seasoning to taste.
  4. Assemble the Casserole:
    • Arrange half of the tortilla segments in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the cooked chicken, followed by half of the vegetable mixture and half of the Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies.
    • Pour half of the sauce evenly over the layers. Sprinkle with half of the shredded cheese. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients, ending with a final layer of cheese on top.
  5. Bake to Perfection:
    • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
    • Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and slightly crispy.
  6. Garnish and Serve:
    • Remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro and serve hot.

Cook’s Notes and Variations:

  • Use Rotisserie Chicken:
    • Save time by using pre-cooked rotisserie chicken for this recipe. Simply shred or dice the chicken and incorporate it into the casserole as directed.
  • Adjust the Spice Level:
    • Control the heat by adjusting the amount of jalapeno, cayenne pepper, and chili powder to suit your taste preferences. For a milder version, remove the seeds and membranes from the jalapeno before mincing.
  • Make it Vegetarian:
    • Skip the chicken and use black beans, pinto beans, or tofu as a protein-packed alternative. You can also add extra vegetables such as corn, black olives, or spinach for added flavor and nutrition.
  • Low Carb Variation:
    • For a low-carb version of King Ranch Chicken, substitute the tortillas with thinly sliced zucchini or yellow squash. Layer the vegetables in the casserole as you would with the tortillas and proceed with the recipe as directed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q: Can I prepare King Ranch Chicken ahead of time? A: Yes, you can assemble the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it, covered, for up to 24 hours before baking. Alternatively, you can freeze the assembled casserole (unbaked) for up to 3 months. Just make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before baking.

Q: What can I serve with King Ranch Chicken? A: King Ranch Chicken pairs well with a variety of sides, including Spanish rice, refried beans, cornbread, or a crisp green salad. You can also serve it with tortilla chips and salsa for a Tex-Mex twist.

Q: Can I use store-bought enchilada sauce instead of making my own sauce? A: Yes, you can use store-bought enchilada sauce if you prefer. Simply substitute it for the homemade sauce in the recipe. Just keep in mind that the flavor may vary slightly depending on the brand of enchilada sauce you choose.

Q: Is King Ranch Chicken spicy? A: The level of spiciness in King Ranch Chicken can be adjusted to suit your taste preferences. If you prefer a milder version, reduce the amount of jalapeno, cayenne pepper, and chili powder in the recipe. Conversely, if you like it spicy, feel free to increase the amount of these ingredients.

King Ranch Chicken is a comforting and flavorful casserole that’s perfect for any occasion. With its layers of creamy sauce, tender chicken, and zesty vegetables, it’s a true crowd-pleaser that’s sure to become a family favorite. Whether you’re hosting a casual dinner or craving a comforting meal, this Tex-Mex classic is guaranteed to satisfy your cravings. Give it a try and enjoy the irresistible flavors of King Ranch Chicken today!

More Tips and Tricks:

  • Add a Kick of Heat:
    • For an extra kick of heat, add a dash of hot sauce or sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes over the casserole before baking.
  • Make it Gluten-Free:
    • Use gluten-free flour and corn tortillas to make this recipe gluten-free. Check the labels of all ingredients to ensure they are gluten-free.
  • Freeze Individual Portions:
    • Portion leftovers into individual servings and freeze them in airtight containers for quick and convenient meals on busy days.
  • Share the Love:
    • Share this delicious recipe with friends and family and spread the joy of homemade King Ranch Chicken. It’s a dish that’s sure to bring everyone together around the dinner table!

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