Night before last a rapid and dangerous storm blew through Texas in the middle of the night. I am eternally grateful that there was no damage to my home or yard. It was verified that a tornado did blow through my community and the path of evidence was clear-cut. Trees down, metal mangled, fences laid flat, vehicles smashed by fallen trees, awnings crumpled. The destruction could have been much worse and I know all in this town are thankful it was minimal in the big scheme of what is known as a tornado.
The worst for us was loosing power for eight hours. When we lost electricity at 2:20 a.m., one thing going through my mind, once I knew the danger of a tornado at my home had passed, was how I was going to pull off catering a meal for 34 people in my kitchen. I silently prayed that the power would be restored by 8 a.m. and all would go without a hitch. However, when my battery operated alarm went off at 7 and we still had no electricity it became clear I had a bump in the catering road. To make matters worse since we had no power, I had no coffee. Not a good start to the day. I generally don’t say a word until I’ve had about three or four sips of coffee then a word or two leaks out of my mouth, not before. Realizing that I could not wait to speak until I’d tasted some fresh, hot, rich, wake me up coffee, I discussed my dilemma with adoring hubby .
As luck would have it I was catering lunch for the studio where he works as a commercial photographer. (No, he does not shoot all of my fabulous photos for this blog, only on occasion do I hand the job over to him, thank you.) The decision was made that we would load all the ingredients, my knives, a cooler, large bowls and pans, etc. into my vehicle and transport it all to the studio for me to prepare there. As is standard for most big studios there is a very large and well equipped kitchen. And, most importantly they would have a pot of hot fresh coffee waiting for me. This seemed like the best thing happening – so the story goes.
The chosen menu for my catered meal was King Ranch Chicken. King Ranch Chicken is a casserole. I am not a big fan of casseroles and I don’t usually make the them. KRC is a staple on the dinner table in Texas however, and I figured it was about time I figure out how to throw one together. A side note about casseroles. A few years back while staying with a friend, Miss T asked the mom what was for dinner. The mom told her “tuna casserole”. Miss T’s reply, “I don’t think I like tuna casserole”. The mom, “You like tuna, potato chips, noodles, cheese, right?” “Yes, mam”, answered Miss T. “Oh, then you’ll like tuna casserole, it’ll be ready in a while. I’ll call ya’ll when it’s done”, the mom responded as she dismissed Miss T. My daughter, however continued to stand in the kitchen with a disgruntled look on her face. Mom, “Need something else?”. Miss T, “yes, I don’t think I’m gonna like it because I don’t think I like casserole!”. The mom rolled in the floor with laughter and couldn’t wait to share the story with me. Each time the topic of casseroles comes up, and it is noted that I don’t make them, we retell this story and laugh at the mystery of “casserole”.
Casseroles often are mysterious, as ingredients are disguised under sauces and cheeses. I’m rather dubious about the success of casseroles if it weren’t for Campbell’s “cream of” soups. They appear on many casserole recipes. I have never understood how the cream of mushroom with its pathetic, rubbery little flecks of mushroom, or the cream of chicken a weird color of yellow, containing miniscule bits of chicken, can either one pass for real soup. But I suppose if it weren’t for them King Ranch Chicken wouldn’t exist.
On this day it would exist much to the pleasure of all the photographers, stylists, art directors, managers, assistants and pressers ready for the echo across the PA system of “lunch is ready!”. It was noted to be the best KRC casserole served at the studio, nice spice, and generous amounts of chicken in every bite. Success in the face of diversity.
Enjoy! Please don’t leave without saying a little something in the comments section below.
King Ranch Chicken
9 pounds chicken, cooked and cubed
2 10 oz. cans Rotel tomatoes
2 1/2 dozen corn tortillas
4 10 oz. cans cream of chicken soup
2 10 oz. cans cream of mushroom soup
2 10 oz. cans chicken broth
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 pounds grated cheddar & Monterrey jack cheese
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. black pepper
2-4 tsp ground chili powder
Coat the inside of a steam table size aluminum pan with cooking spray. Saute onion and bell pepper in a little olive oil in a pan until fragrant. Add all soups, broth and Rotel into a large saucepan. Heat and when beginning to boil add onion and pepper mixture, spices, and black pepper; lower heat and simmer for a few minutes. Meantime layer corn tortillas in bottom of pan. Spoon the hot soup mixture over the tortillas, sprinkle some chicken and cheese over the soup mixture. Add another layer of tortillas and repeat process until you have 3 layers, being sure to finish with a generous layer of cheese.
Bake in a 350* oven for about an hour or until center is bubbly and cheese begins to brown. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
This recipe serves 24.