When I first came to Texas almost 20 years ago I kept hearing people speak in reverential tones of something called King Ranch.

"It's the king of casseroles"

"It will change the way you think of casseroles"

"I couldn't make a King Ranch and my man left me for a woman who could"- that sort of thing.

It's not a dish you'll find on many menus in restaurants but it's importance in Texas households is not to be underestimated. Many housewives will bang out a batch in a few minutes using cans of creamed soup and whatever's on hand in the fridge but I've been fortunate enough to sup at the tables of some ladies who take their preparation very, very seriously. Here is the fruit of those meals:

Ingredients:

1 Whole Chicken Fully cooked[ I smoke mine over hickory with the cavity stuffed full of chopped onions and garlic]

24 Corn Tortillas

6 Poblano Chiles

1 Garlic, Bulb

1 Giant Green Onion, Bunch

2 Pepper, Red, Bell

1 lb, Tomatillos

1 c. Stock, Chicken

1 lb Colby Cheese, shredded

1 lb Jack Cheese, shredded

1 Bunch, Cilantro

2 Cups, Cream, Heavy

Method

* Preheat oven to 300 degrees

* Shred chicken off bone

* Char Poblano, tomatillo, Garlic and Red Bell Peppers under broiler in oven

* Thinly slice and reserve Red Bell Pepper

* Pulse tomatillos, Poblanos,green onion and garlic in food processor til almost smooth

* Bring chicken stock to boil

* Add heavy cream, return to boil, reduce til thick

* Combine with tomatillo mixture

* Cook tortillas in hot fat til right at crispy

Now let's build the casserole

* Coat 9" x 14" casserole pan with olive oil

* Pour a skift of tomatillo sauce in bottom of pan

* Add 6 corn tortillas

* Place enough shredded chicken to cover tortillas

* Drizzle with tomatillo sauce

* Cover with cheeses

* Add sliced red bells and chopped cilantro

* Repeat order above til casserole is finished making sure top layer is cheese, sliced red bells and cilantro.

* Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes

* Let casserole sit up for a few minutes before slicing

I like to serve my King Ranch simply as a one dish meal with each wedge getting nothing more than a squeeze of fresh lime and a big dollop of crema Salvadorena or sour cream.

There are rules to be followed when you make a King Ranch. Here they are http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2010/2/10/The-Rules-of-King-Ranch-Casserole

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