I confess that, even as the outdoor thermostat rises, I still crave casseroles; this week will be solidly in the 90s here in the Valley of the Sun, but for the past few days I haven’t been able to stop thinking about a certain cheesy, flavorful, bubbling casserole…
King Ranch Chicken (also known as King Ranch Casserole) is a Tex-Mex heirloom dish that has been around for almost as long as its namesake, although the recipe likely did not actually originate from King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas (King Ranch, one of the largest working ranches in the world, is, after all, known for its beef).
The truth is that no one knows for sure where the original recipe for King Ranch Chicken came from, but it most certainly gained traction in popular culture right around the middle of the twentieth century while canned and condensed soups were also quickly becoming mainstays in pantries throughout the United States. Which is probably why, lineage or no lineage, there is very little question about the ingredients that typically make up a traditional King Ranch Chicken Casserole: canned cream of mushroom soup, canned cream of chicken soup, canned Ro-Tel tomatoes, and canned roasted green chiles. Other ingredients are common -bell peppers, chicken, tortillas and cheese- but the cans stand out.
So I suppose, both in my abandonment of the can (I didn’t kick them all to the curb!), as well as my craving of the comfort-wielding casserole just as the mercury inches dangerously close to 100º F, I am committing some type of dual heresy.