Knock knock knock.
Imagine, if you will, that you are 11. That you are seat belted into a giant Buick LeSabre, next to your sisters. Imagine the Judds coming through the car speakers, and singing along in harmony with most of the people in the car. Imagine one of your sisters gets car sick. A lot. Imagine mom giving Dramamine to all of us, because there’s one kid who likes to get sick, but that shit will knock the other two of you out for awhile. Imagine your sleepy little feet landing in a pyrex casserole dish full of a beautifully executed King Ranch Chicken casserole in the floorboard. Welcome to my childhood.
The King Ranch is a big place in Texas. There is a casserole named after it. Enough about that.
MY family ranch, The Stanton Ranch, is in Johnson City, Texas. While nothing to sneeze at, in terms of acreage and acclaim it is no King Ranch. But that didn’t even enter our minds while we traversed its creeks and rivers in our inner tubes, fished, made the most of its ample venison and generally enjoyed being around our relatives.
And we all knew how to eat. Mom, Aunt Marcie and Granny would generally do a casserole or two ahead of time for ease and convenience while we were all up at the ranch, much preferring to spend time in the creek or playing cards than sweating over the stove.
For issues of freezability and portability, the casserole is a solid meal. In this version, I have taken the classic King Ranch Chicken casserole and made it palatable. Reduced are the cans of condensed soup, and more complex flavors take their place.
What you need:
- 1 lb uncooked white meat chicken, cubed
- 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano + 1 tsp Mexican oregano (I use Bolner’s Fiesta Spices for this, it’s really the best)
- 1 tbsp cumin + 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp lard (or olive oil or butter)
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 4 oz button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tbsp masa harina or flour
- 1 can Rotel tomatoes
- 1 10.5 ounce can Cream of Mushroom condensed soup
- 4 tsp chopped pickled jalapeños (optional)
- 16 corn tortillas
- 4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 oz shredded monterey jack cheese
In a saucepan, combine 2 cups chicken stock, 1/2 cup white wine, 1 tsp Mexican oregano, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder and 1 pound of chicken. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to stew for about a half hour. Remove from heat, allow to cool on its own.
Preheat oven to 375.
Melt 1 tbsp lard in a large saute pan. Add the chopped onion, sweat. Add the garlic and sliced mushrooms. Add 1 tsp Mexican oregano, 2 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp white pepper.
Scatter 2 tbsp masa over the entire mixture. Stir and allow the raw flavor to be cooked off.
Shred the cooked chicken into the mixture and stir. Add the cooking liquid from the chicken plus an additional 1/4 cup white wine. Stir to bring the masa and liquids together.
Add the condensed soup and Rotel tomatoes. Add the chopped jalapeños (optional).
Spray a rectangular 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Cut 10 of the tortillas in half. Line the bottom of the casserole dish using the straight edges of the halved ones to make the perimeter, then covering the middle with two whole tortillas. Spread 1/3 of the chicken mixture over the tortillas. Repeat this process 3 times, so that there are three layers of tortilla alternating with 3 layers of chicken mixture.
Cover the top with the grated cheese.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
Full downloadable PDF here: Johnson City Tortilla Pie
This is a dream in the freezer. Cover tightly and shove her in for a rainy day.
Also, I slathered mine with The Gentleman Caller’s All-Purpose Chili Sauce #1 http://thegentlemancaller.net/the-gentleman-callers-all-purpose-chili-sauce-1/ and then topped with a sprig of micro cilantro that I sprouted earlier.
You are going to love this one, kiddos.
Keep coming back; I’ll keep giving you more.