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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Mexican Chicken Casserole aka King Ranch Chicken

Photo Source:  Dana Alexander
My old work pal, Mr. Blake Schooley, shared a wonderful recipe for a Mexican Chicken Casserole...and I later learned it was basically an off-shoot of King Ranch Chicken.  I tried to determine, now that I'm an El Valle resident and pass by the King Ranch multiple times each year, if the King Ranch Chicken casserole really came from the King Ranch.  Couldn't find a definitive answer...they don't appear to claim it as their own.  Maybe a ranch cook spiced up a Chicken ala King recipe to Texicanize it and made it their own...who knows?  Lady Bird Johnson had a King Ranch Chicken recipe in her files.  Most are quite similar...mine doesn't have bell peppers (which is probably why I like it so much) and instead of the traditional layers of corn tortillas, Mr. Schooley used tortilla chips...which I like very much.

My yankee in-laws probably thought I was trying to kill them the first time I served this to them.  They found it very spicy.  Me, not so is perfect.  I believe I will make it this week.  I seem to be in a casserole phase.  Which is odd, really, because growing up, no casseroles were served in our home.  No tuna noodle, no lasagna, nada, zip, zilch.  In the late '70s I started collecting and cooking them...and I'll be sharing more of them with you over the coming months.  Retro casseroles seem to be coming back into popularity.  I figure it is the economy... casseroles are often less expensive to prepare and they feed large tables of folks easier than individual meat servings!  So, Mr. Schooley - thanks for sharing yours - I hope you are looking down from above and grinning your big grin and nodding your head as I fondly remember you doing for many years at the old Shoal Creek lunch table.

Photo Source:  Google Images (since I won't be making it until later this week!)


4 or 5 chicken breasts (bone in)
1 can diced Ro-tel Tomatoes with Chilies (I use original or mild)
1 large onion, diced
1 can Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup
1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup
1 medium or large bag of Doritos (I use El Milagro chips - they are the best - they are from Austin - and I can get them at the Port Isabel H.E.B. grocery store.  I crunch them up a bit.)
2-3 cups grated Colby Jack cheese (my addition - not in the original)

Place chicken in boiler with Ro-tel Tomatoes.  USE NO WATER.  Cover and cook very slow until chicken is tender.  Remove from pan to cool (reserve liquid).

Add large diced onion to broth (Ro-tel and chicken pan drippings you reserved above) and cook until onion is tender.  Add both cans of soup and stir until well-mixed.

Bone the chicken and put meat in bottom of casserole dish. (I cut into fork-size pieces)
<not noted in recipe but I used a 9x13 Pyrex dish - I like seeing the casserole through the glass>
Add Doritos or tortilla chips to the top of chicken
**See my cheese note below
Add the broth you made with the Ro-tel and soups
Top with more chips if desired (I do desire)
Put in oven and cook until bubbly (no temp mentioned - I used the 325 to 350 standard)

Mr. Schooley mentions Nacho Cheese soup can be substituted for either mushroom or chicken soup.  Freezes well and excellent for doubling.

**If I'm feeling cheesy (which is always), I add grated Colby Jack cheese on top of the chips before layering on the sauce, and add more grated cheese on top the whole thing in the last 10 minutes or so of baking time...that "makes" it for me!

This is Tex-ican comfort food at its finest.  Hmmm, wonder if the teen will love it as much as his big brothers?  He has never tried it...but Mr. Picky has been eating adventurously lately - I can be hopeful!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

UPDATE January 9, 2011

Made the casserole tonight - it was delicious - we ate the whole thing!  I DID halve it though :-)
Made 2 small casseroles - one for the freezer and one for dinner tonight.  Good stuff my friends!


  1. I used chicken thighs, because we like the dark meat better. The cheese was a good idea, and I was trying to be good and only added a little; however, next time the whole package! Also I needed to add more chips...

  2. This is a staple in my recipe box ... I have been making it for over 30 years. I have a "cheater" version that takes me about 30 min to prepare from start to table ... buy a cheater chicken (i.e. the ones already cooked at the grocery store) remove meat from entire chicken. Mix with the soups and rotel - I also add a can of green chilies and some cummin to taste. The real departure from my recipe and yours is that I use fresh corn tortillas that I layer the chicken/soup mixture and cheese. I will give the chips a try. Love your blog Debbi - Ann Smith

  3. Thanks Ann! Love shortened versions of just about anything! I do like the crunch of the chips/cheese on top...we serve corn tortillas with butter on the side :-) I also like adding the extra green chilies...I used mild Rotel this time - not enough kick - will go back to original...and try the green chilies next time I make this!!!


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