My King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken l Scarletta Bakes

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.

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Arroz Verde (Green Rice)

Arroz Verde

If you were to ask, I would not claim spring as my favorite season. In fact, it would probably be last on my preferred list, with one exception:  what is means for produce.

Ironically, as many of you are no doubt encountering, although spring has technically already sprung, prime growing season has yet to show its pretty little face. I think that, for some of you, unsnowcapped-ground has yet to show its pretty little face. So it must be the anticipation of things to come that has such an impact on fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of the year…  they just taste better.

A good example is this rice. Yes, rice.

I started preparing this dish several years ago during the spring after I walked by a stand of poblano chiles that were so good looking that I threw a wink their way. Next to a crate full of Mexican limes that were an irresistible shade of bright, bright green. And a stack of leafy parsley that smelled so tempting that I simply could not walk away.

I decided that mixing my finds in with some luscious rice would be perfect; the flavor of my new fresh friends mixed up with plump rice filling enough to respect the fact that spring doesn’t yet feel like it’s entirely in full effect.

So…  arroz verde.

Sticky, satisfying, tasting like sweet promise:  spring is (almost) here. We can taste it.

Arroz Verde (Green Rice)

3 large shallots, peeled and ends removed
4 large cloves garlic
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt for roasting and seasoning to taste
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, stemmed and seeded
6 stems parsley
3 tbsp. lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 c. medium-grain rice
4 c. vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss the shallots and garlic together with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt, wrap tightly in foil and roast for approximately 50 minutes or until shallots are slightly shrunken and garlic is golden and fragrant. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the poblano chiles, parsley, and lime juice and process to a uniform paste.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grains are opaque. Add the processed chile mixture and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the stock, season with salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until all of the moisture has been absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff and stir before serving.

YIELD:  approximately 6 servings

Best Chili For Your Week

Bowl Of Best Chili l Scarletta Bakes

I don’t know exactly what your week will entail.

I don’t know if you’ll have a couple of bonkers work deadlines to meet.

Or maybe you have some Spring Break stuff to be breaking.

Perhaps you’ll need to be reminded of Daylight Savings? Or maybe you’ll do some reminding yourself…

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Smashed Garbanzo Breakfast Quesadillas

Smashed Garbanzo Breakfast Quesadillas l Scarletta Bakes

Wakey, wakey! It’s time to get up! You’ve got places to go! People to see!

Ugh. Gaw. Don’t you hate being woken up?!?

I mean, I get it…  the whole places to go and people to see thing. But, seriously, unless you’re 10 years old or the house is on fire, it just feels so undignified.

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Red Bean & Rice Burritos

Basket Of Burritos l Scarletta Bakes

Let’s celebrate Mardi Gras!

Sure, we’re a little early. And it’s true that we’re nowhere near New Orleans. But don’t you just feel like you want to let the good times roll right about now? Me too…

Red Beans + Rice l Scarletta Bakes

I don’t have a strong connection with New Orleans or its tradition, but I have often celebrated Mardi Gras over the years; it falls at a time on the calendar when most people are just about begging for the weather to warm up, dying to let loose and live a little, and after the first of the year’s health push, probably looking for a bit of indulgence.

Perfect.

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Green Chile Noodle Soup (Sopa de Fideo)

Green Chile Sopa De Fideo l Scarletta Bakes

Are you surviving this ugly, ugly winter? Just barely? Me too.

Hey! I see you rolling your eyes…

The truth is that the desert floor is a funny thing; it’s completely impervious to water of any kind, be it monsoon- or man-made, but after the sun goes down it seems to draw into itself every single degree of ambient heat.

The desert is a cold, cold place without the sun and temperatures can swing up to thirty degrees in a 24 hour period. Which means you’re going to need a sweater. Or some legwarmers. And for sure an enormous bowl of hot soup.

Cut Fideo l Scarletta Bakes

You may know fideos as Spanish noodles, specifically, semolina pasta commonly sold cut or coiled. Fideos, especially the cut variety, are most often served in soup, which is what we’ve done here. Because we’re freezing cold!

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Warm Winter Spice Salad

Warm Winter Spice Salad l Scarletta Bakes

So you’ve enjoyed some green bean casserole (extra fried onions on top), some stuffing (extra sausage mixed in), and some pie (extra pastry crust underneath)…  let’s share a big bowl of butter!

I jest. Let’s instead do our cholesterols a favor and enjoy a refreshing Warm Winter Spice Salad made with hearty quinoa, satisfying hominy, and a flavorful array of spices and seasonings.

You’re welcome, cholesterols!

Uncooked Quinoa l Scarletta Bakes

If you’re not familiar with hominy, I think you’re going to appreciate the introduction:  it’s the whole version of the treated corn that is ground into what you know as masa harina. Masa harina is, of course, the corn-based flour that is used to produce the masa, or dough, that we use to make tamales, sopes, huaraches and our very favorite, corn tortillas. Now you’re a hominy expert and you have something to talk about at your next holiday cocktail party other than Kimye’s recent sound bite.

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Loaded Turkey Taters (Totchos!)

Loaded Turkey Totchos l Scarletta Bakes

Have you heard?

You’re going to have some leftover turkey to contend with in the next couple of days.

Turkey to make sandwiches out of.
Turkey to put into soup.
Turkey to roll up and use as a scrunchie for your hair.

Lots and lots of turkey!

I personally am not the biggest turkey fan as I find it to be somewhat flavorless. Which is precisely why, after my sandwiches are made, my soup it stirred, and my hair is done did, I spin my leftover turkey into as much spicy, seasoned goodness as I can dream up.

So…  spicy loaded totchos!

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Cheater’s Green Chili Chicken Pot Pie

Green Chili Chicken Pot Pie l Scarletta Bakes

I don’t like cheating. I really don’t.

I never stole from the bank during a round of Monopoly. I didn’t write answers to math quizzes on my palm. I never tried to avoid the instant replay cameras in soccer. (Did they really use instant replay cameras in soccer games for 8 year olds? That’s what my coach told me. I call shenanigans.)

But in the immortal words of J. Lo, I’m real. Which means that last week my Wednesday night looked like exhaustion, two growling tummies, one irritable dog who had been home alone for way too long, and piles and piles of laundry:  this degree of real required some cheating.

Cheating and comfort! So I busted out this pot pie recipe and cheated with a few shortcuts.

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