Food + Wine

KING RANCH (ERS) CHICKEN THE LONG WAY AND HOMEMADE CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP

So, apparently the real name of this casserole I grew up eating is King Ranch Chicken, and NOT King Ranchers Chicken. It has always been King Ranchers Chicken to me! I first had it at the Hogan’s house when I was little. And I don’t know how the title got lost in translation. But, according to the very official recipe found in my very official teenage recipe book…

…I’ve always known it to be King Rancher’s Chicken (thanks, Barbara!!). I used to make it all the time when I was a new mom, and my husband fell in love with it. Then, I stopped making it somewhere along the way… most likely due to me not cooking a lot of casseroles and things made with canned and processed ingredients anymore, as the recipe calls for ‘cream of’ soups. But during this quarantine, we’ve found ourselves cooking and baking a lot of nostalgic things, so this dish popped back in my head!

It is such a fantastic and comforting and super flavorful casserole. My just kids got to have it for the first time and they both fell in love. So much so, that they both asked for seconds and then squealed when they found out it was their lunch the following day. My daughter is very sensitive to anything spicy (she’s a super taster, my girl), and this was just the right amount of ‘very spicy but still fun’ for her ;-). The roots of this casserole are in Texas, where it apparently has nothing to do with The King Ranch… it’s just one of those things that everyone tends to have their own version of. But all versions are essentially the same. It’s a casserole made with chicken, tortillas, cheese, a creamy chicken broth sauce and canned tomatoes and green chilies. The tortillas get soft and dumpling-like while baking and it’s just this perfect casserole, not to mention incredibly easy to make thanks to some traditional pantry staples.

The only problem – my pantry does not include anything ‘cream of’ anymore. And since we’re all not going anywhere that isn’t absolutely essential…

I made my own! It’s the healthier choice in all ways possible!

Cream of anything soup is essentially a thickened / creamy broth flavored with whatever you want to season it with. And there are plenty of ways to make it, I’m sure… but I have the most easiest way possible to share with you. You’re literally just whisking and waiting.

Note – I used reserved homemade chicken stock from a previous night’s roast chicken, as I’m turning every roasted chicken carcass into overnight stock. (See an older post with a video HERE on how I do it.) And milk is precious around here since we’re not going out to the store, so I used milk powder to make my own for this. You can also use canned, evaporated milk as well. Or, just sub the milk content for more broth or stock, or even water if you need to! It will still be thick and assume a creamy mouthfeel… it just won’t be quite as rich and ‘creamy’. I also added one of my new favorite ingredients gifted to me by my husband – umami powder. Holy smokes, guys. This stuff is the jam. You can find it on amazon HERE. It’s made from shiitake mushrooms and it’s fantastic. If you don’t have any, no problem!

So, here you go- you’re getting two recipes for the price of one! Use this ‘cream of chicken soup’ in any casserole calling for cream of whatever soups, or as the base of chicken pot pie, or to thicken up a soup you’ve already made… or simply mix some shredded chicken and veggies in it to serve over rice for an easy, comforting meal. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for weeks. OR freeze for months!

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

makes a bit over 4 cups, equivalent to about 4 (10 oz) cans

In a medium cold saucepan, add the following…

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1-3 tsp kosher salt (that amount depends entirely on the salinity of your chicken broth / stock, so start with 1 tsp and taste and adjust if necessary)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground black or white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • **optional if you have it** 1 tsp umami powder
  • ^^ you can also sub all of the above herbs/seasonings for 1 1/2 TB poultry seasoning or your favorite seasoning blend, adjust the salt if yours already has salt in it

Whisk to combine.

With the heat still OFF, slowly add in, while whisking, the following liquids…

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

The key is to slowly whisk in some liquid and keep whisking until you have no lumps at all. When you’ve managed to incorporate enough liquid to create a thick sauce or paste without any lumps of flour, you can add in all of the liquids and keep whisking as you go.

When you have a smooth liquid and all of your ingredients have been combined, turn the heat on medium and whisk while it comes up to a simmer.

Depending on your stove, it can take up to 5 minutes, but just keep whisking while it heats up and comes up to a simmer, and then a boil.

Allow it to bubble to reach its full thickness level.

Taste it and adjust the salt if necessary.

Allow to cool before storing in the fridge.

KING RANCHERS CHICKEN

serves about 6

It’s not necessary, but this is better if made in advance to allow the liquid to soak through the tortillas before baking. Just cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.

You will need :

  • 8 cups shredded chicken or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts poached, then shredded (reserve any broth from that poaching)
  • 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar (sub sharp cheddar if that’s what you have, or monterey jack, or pepper jack… any meltable, shreddable cheese can work in a pinch TBH)
  • 3 large burrito size flour tortillas or 5-6 smaller sized
  • 1 (10 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup (or any ‘cream of’ soup you happen to have would work fine)
  • ^^OR!! about 2 cups of your homemade cream of chicken soup from the recipe above
  • 1 cup chicken stock / broth
  • 1 small or 1/2 medium / large onion, minced
  • 1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, such as Rotel

Grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish.

(You will be making 3 layers of torn tortillas/chicken/cheese)

Tear your tortillas and layer the bottom of the dish with some.

Top with some chicken.

Top with some cheese.

Repeat to make 3 layers. It does not need to be perfect, just be sure you’re being consistent.

In a mixing bowl, mix your cream of soup(s), your chicken broth and your onion.

Pour this over your layers in the dish.

I use a spatula to poke it all a bit and make sure the sauce permeates all the layers, but it eventually finds its way while baking.

Pour your can of tomatoes and chilies over the top.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Allow to cool slightly before devouring.

thanks for reading, y’all.

stay home . stay safe . stay smart .

much love x

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