This week’s recipe is a serious departure from last week’s relatively healthy and light Wild Cod Burgers. However, there is a method to my madness.
Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of King Ranch Casserole. Have you? I didn’t grow up in a casserole-making household, yet there is something so comforting about a one-dish meal, baked in the oven until bubbly because there is usually cheese involved. Speaking of one-dish meals, have you made the Quinoa, Spinach and Artichoke Casserole I posted on the blog a few weeks ago? I’ve heard from many of you that you’ve made it with great success which makes me happy!
Back to King Ranch. Last month, I co-hosted a jewelry trunk show here at my house with Zwikker & Zacher. Over the course of the very long day, we had a chance to chat quite a bit with Crashy Brown, one of Z&Z’s owners, making connections about all sorts of things from food to travel and everything in between. Crashy mentioned she had a go-to recipe that is always a crowd pleaser called King Ranch Casserole so I asked if she would share the recipe after she returned home.
Well, she not only shared the recipe, but so very kindly sent me the cookbook that it was published in, The Best American Recipes 2003-2004. This cookbook is a compilation of recipes from books, magazines and the Internet and was edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens. There are so many recipes I want to try in the book but of course I chose to start with the Southwest King Ranch Casserole since Crashy had recommended it so highly.
I made it last weekend and brought it to a potluck where it was eagerly polished off. I made it a second time this week and shared some with a friend who has some teenagers to feed! While I can’t say it’s light and healthy, it is delicious and incredibly simple to put together. As Crashy suggested, it is a crowd pleaser that you can bring to a holiday potluck or use to welcome home your college kids. And if you are off for a ski vacation, this dish would be perfect for a cozy, snowy night with just a big salad on the side.
There are a ton of King Ranch Casserole recipes floating around, some of which use canned soup and all of which suggest that nobody really knows where the recipe originated. This recipe originally was in The Whole Foods Market Cookbook by Steve Petusevsky believe it or not. Which cook developed the dish is supposedly a mystery even to the folks at Whole Foods. They claim it was created in one of their Southwest stores and at the time it was one of their most popular dishes at their take-out counter.
The ingredients are pretty simple but one of the things I love the most about the way this recipe is written is that they do not add the garlic in with the onions when you are sauteeing them! If you read my recipes enough, you know that I always sweat my onions for a few minutes and then add garlic just for a minute before adding more ingredients. I do this so that garlic doesn’t burn which makes it bitter. Yay, Whole Foods. Ok, I digress.
Saute onions until soft, then add garlic and some paprika and cumin. Shred some rotisserie chicken and add along with some freshly chopped cilantro and a can of diced green chiles. Layer the mixture between corn tortillas, tomatillo salsa, a mixture of monterey jack and cheddar cheeses and some sour cream. Bake until bubbly. Make it ahead so the flavors develop. Serve it with some extra sour cream, sliced avocado, refried beans and salsa.
I was thinking about it and was wondering if you could actually swap out the chicken for black beans? It would be worth trying as a vegetarian option.
As for the tomatillo salsa, I tried two brands during my testing. Trader Joe’s brand was mild and I really liked the way it complemented the dish. Frontera brand contained some serrano chiles so it packed more of a spicy punch. Depending on your heat preference, you can choose which brand you want to use. These are just the two I happened to find.
While a departure from last week’s lighter recipe, Southwest King Ranch Casserole is the type of homey dish that tends to have broad appeal for good reason, especially at this time of year when it seems like comforting foods can sometimes play a key role in nurturing our souls.
And so this idea just kind of popped into my head as I am writing. If you have the time and the inclination, please take a look around your world and see if there is someone in your life who could use an extra hug or two at this time of year. A “casserole” if you will. The holidays can be really, really hard, even under the best of circumstances. People often suffer in silence and put on a brave face when what they really want to do is dissolve in a puddle of tears. Again, if you have the time and the inclination, please find someone to make this casserole for who could use a little extra support over the holidays. Or make any recipe from any blog, website or cookbook and bring it to them, just because.
See you next time…