I often turn to King Ranch Chicken Casserole when I want an easy meal. Besides being a top choice around our house, this classic casserole has a nice kick that makes it one of the most popular in Texas. Think Tex-Mex chicken lasagna with corn tortillas instead of noodles.
Named for a South Texas ranch that's one of the world's largest, this comfort-food delight has inspired many different recipes. I love this one because it's super easy, feeds at least eight, freezes like a charm and makes fabulous leftovers. Since it's always a hit, I've served it to everyone from my family to the Bunco girls with much success. That's probably because it's based on an idea from the pages of Southern Living.
Most recently, this go-to was the star attraction of our Mother's Day lunch. I was short on time that weekend because I was cohosting a baby shower Saturday morning and cooking for the family Sunday. Thank goodness, I remembered this crowd-pleaser. It saved me from spending the entire weekend in the kitchen!
I like using Bob's great grilled chicken in this recipe but any type of cooked white meat works (baked, boiled or deli). If you're anything like me, you'll probably have most of the other 11 ingredients on hand. I'm never without hot sauce (Bob and our son Cole are addicted to Cholula), salt, pepper, margarine, Rotel tomatoes with green chiles, cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soups, or cheddar cheese. We buy Rotel tomatos in bulk but, if you can't find them, use diced tomatoes and add some green chiles. I only had to pick up bell pepper, an onion and corn tortillas.
Making this one-dish meal is super easy. You just use two forks to shred the chicken; then toss it with your favorite hot sauce. After sautéing the bell pepper and onion in margarine, stir in the chicken, salt, pepper, Rotel and soups. From there, you can move straight to layering corn tortillas, the chicken sauce and cheese in a 9"- x 13"-baker as you would if making lasagna.
That means you can have this simple-but-irresistible main dish in the oven in less than 30 minutes and serve it up about 45 minutes later. Or, if you like being a step ahead, bake it without adding the last layer of cheese, refrigerate overnight and reheat the next day.
Even better, with a main event like this, you don't need to plan a lot of extras. We enjoyed it with a Chipotle-Charged Salad (minus the chicken), warn corn tortillas, tortilla chips and guacamole with Texas Sheet Cake for dessert. Next thing I knew, everyone was talking about having this comforting casserole Christmas. Talk about a Mother's Day gift! There's no better compliment than getting such a request.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Top shredded chicken with hot sauce and toss to combine.
Melt butter in a large skillet. Add green pepper and onion, sautéing till they start to get tender.
Turn off heat and blend in salt and pepper, chicken, tomatoes with juice, and soups.
Spray a 9"- x 13"--inch baker with a cooking spray like Pam. Put the following in the pan in this order:
Repeat everything except the cheese twice. Hold off adding the final layer of cheese (1 cup).
Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes or till hot. Top with the reserved cheese and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let sit about 5 minutes before serving.
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