King Ranch is one of the world's largest ranches, located in South Texas. They don't claim to have come up with this recipe, which is possible because they are a cattle ranch. However, even cowboys get tired of beef.
Some stories say that one of the early ranch hands came up with the dish and fed hundreds of hungry ranch workers this hearty meal.
Because the King Ranch was established in 1853, if this ranch hand did in fact create the recipe...he couldn't have used canned cream soups from a factory. He would have used fresh ingredients that gave the chicken a lot of flavor (sucking up ranch dust does a number on a cowboy's taste buds).
While this recipe doesn't go so far as requiring you to make your own ground cornmeal for the tortillas or lard from the hog house to fry them in...it is absolutely worth the extra effort to create the sauce without the use of canned soup. This is a dish that will satisfy even the hungriest (or pickiest) of folks.
3 Tablespoons butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fresh chili powder
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken stock or broth
3/4 cup buttermilk
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium poblano pepper, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes, drained)
1/4 cup diced green chiles
3 to 4 cups cooked, coarsely shredded chicken (white and dark meat)
1/3 cup green onions, including tops, chopped
canola oil for softening tortillas
8 corn tortillas
2 cup grated Longhorn or Monterey Jack cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish or 3-quart casserole.
2. Make the sauce by melting the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, cumin and chili powder, and sauté for a minute or two.
3. Raise the heat to medium. Quickly sprinkle in the flour and stir to mix. Pour in a small amount of the chicken broth, stirring constantly to remove lumps.
4. Gradually add the remaining chicken broth and the buttermilk and continue stirring until sauce has thickened, 3 or 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Make the filling by warming a heavy skillet over medium heat, then adding the olive oil. Sauté the chopped onion, green pepper, poblano, chiles and tomatoes until onion is transparent, about 4 or 5 minutes. Fold into the mixture the shredded chicken and green onions, combining well. Remove from heat.
6. In a small skillet, heat about half an inch of canola oil. Using tongs, dip the tortillas in the hot oil one at a time, for just a few seconds, so that they are softened. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 4 of the softened tortillas. Layer the remaining ingredients in the following order:
Half of the chicken/vegetable mixture
Half of the grated cheese
Half of the sauce
The remaining 4 softened tortillas
The remaining chicken/vegetable mixture
The remaining grated cheese
The remaining sauce
7. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F until casserole is heated through and bubbly. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
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