The dish is actually a pretty simple casserole which includes chicken, creamy soups, cheese, corn tortillas and most importantly, Ro-Tel tomatoes. I was first introduced to this Texan classic when I met my husband - he grew up in Fort Worth and this was a popular dinner in his household (and apparently the go-to recipe for many Texas Moms). He always requests it for his birthday, so I made it this week to celebrate his special day. As a kid he was told that the name comes from the massive King Ranch in Texas. (A little bit of trivia: The King Ranch is SO big, it's total acreage is greater than the state of Rhode Island). The legend as my husband knew it is that this filling one-dish meal was an easy way to feed many hungry ranch hands at one time, and was likely created by a King Ranch cook. However, I did some searching around and the King Ranch actually does not take ownership of the recipe, which kind of makes sense since it features chicken, and the King Ranch (and the rest of Texas for that matter) is known for and loves its home-grown beef. Although it indeed may have been "created" there at the ranch, no proof exists of its true origins. No matter, now that Ro-Tel tomatoes are widely available throughout the Northeast, I can re-create bit of nostalgia from his past every year!
If you Google King Ranch Chicken, you will find any number of different versions. I like to use the recipe found on the Ro-Tel website as my guide:
KING RANCH CHICKEN
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 8 servings (about 1 cup each)
A signature Ro*Tel recipe--a creamy, cheesy and easy casserole with that special 'kick' coming from Ro*Tel tomatoes and green chilies
PAM® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
1/4 cup Fleischmann's® Original-stick
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 can (10-3/4 oz each) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can (10-3/4 oz each) condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can (10 oz each) Ro*Tel® Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies, undrained
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
12 corn tortillas (6 inch), torn into bite-size pieces
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (2 cups = 8 oz)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
Melt Fleischmann's in large saucepan over medium heat. Add bell pepper and onion; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in both soups, undrained tomatoes and chicken.
Layer one-third each of tortillas, chicken mixture and cheese evenly in dish. Repeat layers twice more. Bake uncovered 40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Recipe courtesy of Ro-Tel website