Anyone who knows me knows that I love Ford pick-ups. I particularly love the King Ranch edition. But since I don’t typically have $50,000 in change, the King Ranch Casserole from Cook’s Country Magazine is about as good as its going to get . . . until, of course, I find a wealthy Lutheran cowboy. So, pretty much any day now.
I should note that, while making this recipe, I burned something for the first time in my life. I should also note that, if your stove is smoking but none of the burners are on, don’t tell yourself that this is normal. Turn the oven off and RUN! (Screaming like a little girl also helps.)
1) Lightly coat both sides of 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas and place them on baking sheets. Bake until slightly crisp and browned (around 12 minutes). Or 8 minutes. In my oven, 12 minutes apparently equals charcoal briquettes.
2) Cool the tortillas slightly and break them into bite-sized pieces. Pitch the burned chunks out to the birds, who, you’ll notice later, are getting little bird-sized indigestion and are taking tiny antacids for their little bitty heartburn. Tortilla FAIL.
3) Heat 1 T. of unsalted butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. (Why did the Dutch corner the market on ovens anyway? I don’t understand.) Cook 2 medium onions (finely chopped), 2 jalapeno chiles (minced), and 2 tsp. cumin until lightly browned (about 8 minutes).
* You’ll want to take a moment or two here to revel in the smell because it.is.delicious!
4) Add 2 cans of Ro-Tel tomatoes, God’s gift to junk-food-kind, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 10 minutes). Check to see if the wildlife have developed gut rot from your burned tortillas.
5) While the tomatoy goodness is simmering, break up the tortillas into bite-sized pieces and place half of them on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish set over a rimmed baking sheet. Remember that part . . . unless it’s time for your oven to be cleaned out anyway. Then what the heck?
6) Add 1 cup of heavy cream and 3 cups of chicken broth, bring to simmer, and cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Or about 7, if you’re my dumb stove.
7) Take 1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and halve them lengthwise. Cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.
* I had to read that about eight times and I still don’t even know what that means. It sounds like a logarithm, and let’s face it: I don’t do math. I just cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Is that so wrong?
8 ) Stir the chicken into the tomato mixture and cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Unless you’re into bacteria parties. Then feel free to just toss it around raw.
9) Take the mixture off the heat, and add 2 T. minced fresh cilantro (blegh . . . left it out) and 4 cups shredded Cojack cheese (which, since they don’t sell it at Aldi, also didn’t make the cut . . . but cheddar did!). Stir until cheese is melted.
10) Stir in salt and pepper to taste. It also helps if you have adorable salt and pepper shakers. Just throwin’ it out there.
11) Since you’ve already scattered half of the tortilla pieces in the bottom of the pan (you multi-tasker you!), spoon half of the filling over the crushed tortillas. Scatter the remaining tortillas over the filling and top with the remaining filling.
Lest you begin to think that the pan is going to overflow . . . it is.
12) But boy if it doesn’t look good spilling all over the place! Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes or until the filling is bubbling (or, if you’re me, practically burning, tortilla-style).
14) Sprinkle some Fritos or Ranch-flavored chips over the top of the casserole and bake until the chips are lightly browned. I’d say this should take about 10 minutes, but with all the nonsense of burning tortillas, I freaked out after 5 minutes and yanked that bad boy right out of the oven.
Voila! Look at these cheesy delicious. Heck, you’re practically a cow hand now!
*Oh, and depending on your political leanings, you should know that Lady Bird Johnson served King Ranch Casserole at the Johnson ranch in Stonewall, Texas, on a regular basis. Just doing my best to bring good beef to hungry people. And by “beef” I mean “casserole.” And burned tortillas. That too.