King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Since living in Texas over 50 years, I just assumed that everyone in the United States had eaten this casserole sometime in their lives. It never occurred to me that just because every person in Texas had this recipe posted on the inside of a kitchen cabinet, or,  it was the “go to” casserole for family gatherings, funerals (I guess that would be considered a family gathering also, wouldn’t it?), welcoming new neighbors and celebrating neighbors that we didn’t like, finally moving away, this was “the” recipe. But since moving to California, I discovered that there are actually folks that have never heard of this casserole. Who knew? To me, that is like never hearing about the blue light special at K Mart.  When several friends little eyes perked up (and at our age, that is hard to do), as I talked about making this for our kids when they come visit, I knew what my next posting would be. Just think about this, if it was printed in an old Southern Living magazine and makes enough to have left over the next day for lunch, cheap and easy to make, we have a winner. So grab your purse and head to the market. Your dinner tonight will give you a taste of Texas and it’s not even Rodeo Days.

1 (4-5 lb) whole chicken (yes, you can use store bought rotisserie chicken if you feel led, but if you do this, you will need 1 cup of chicken broth and you won’t need the celery or carrot)

2 celery ribs, cut into 3 pieces each

2 carrots, cut into 3 pieces each

2 1/2 to 3 teas salt

3 tables butter

1 medium size onion and green bell pepper, each chopped up

1 garlic clove

1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of mushroom soup

1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of chicken soup (or celery soup)

2 cans (10 oz each) diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained (like Rotel)

1 teas dried oregano

1 teas ground cumin

1 teas chili powder

3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

12 (6″) corn tortillas, cut or torn into 1/2″ strips

Remove giblets from chicken. Rinse chicken and place with celery, carrots and salt in a large Dutch oven with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer about 1 hour or until chicken is done. Remove from heat. Remove chicken from the broth. Reserve broth.

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 6-6 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic. Saute 3-4 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup chicken broth, both cans of cream soups and next 4 ingredients. Cook over low heat while deboning the chicken into bite-size pieces. Layer half of chicken in a lightly greased 9×13″ baking dish. Top with half of soup mixture and 1 cup cheese. Cover with half of corn tortilla strips. Repeat the layers again, topping with remaining 1 cup cheese.

Bake at 350 for 55 min to 1 hour or until good and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Put your boots and cowboy hat on and place it on the table. It will be mighty good “eatin” tonight. (sorry, but I haven’t had the opportunity to use that word in a long time)

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