Last night I made King Ranch Chicken for dinner. It is a meal that we ate fairly often when I was in high school and always loved, but have never actually made as an adult. It is funny how we can forget something like a favorite meal for so very long.
The only reason I even thought about making it was because my co-workers were discussing this years crop of fried foods at the State Fair. If you are not from Texas then I should probably explain that at our State Fair they pride themselves in frying EVERYTHING. Each year there are contests for new strange fried foods. In years past we have seen everything from fried oreos, to fried beer, to fried butter, and pretty much anything else you could think of. It is disgusting and glorious all at the same time.
This year the most talked about item is apparently fried Thanksgiving dinner, but the one we ended up discussing the most was the fried King Ranch Chicken. The discussion only happened because half the people in the room had never heard of the dish before. I forget that it is pretty much a Texas dish so non natives are most likely not going to know what it is.
I explained to them that it is a Mexican like casserole. There are corn tortillas, rotel tomatoes, chicken, cheese, and normally some sort of creme of mushroom/chicken/celery soup involved. It is tasty and pretty much on the cheap side and is super easy to make. It is a winning dish any way you look at it.
Of course after talking about it I simply had to have it. Cravings are evil that way. I had a tasty healthy dinner planned out for last night. That plan went right out the window as I texted my mom for her recipe.
It was as simple to make as she said. Most of the effort came in cubing the boiled chicken (boiled with lots of spices, some fresh cilantro, and tomato so that the chicken itself was super tasty before it even went into the casserole dish) and the rest of the effort was layering in the soup/rotel mix with the massive quantities of cheese over the layer of tortillas. I think it took me an hour total to complete.
I plopped on the couch to watch Masterchef with my steaming plate of cheesy goodness. It was as good as I remember from when I was young. It was warm and comforting in a way a good dish from your youth can be.
It set my mind back to high school and my mom making us this dish. I remember how she used to make it for our theater functions and banquets. I started giggling as I remember one Christmas banquet where the entire lot of casseroles were almost lost to one of our dogs getting up on the counter.
All in all the meal was lovely. It was the best sort of meal because it was good for the body and good for the soul.