Sunday, January 06, 2013

Tex-Mex layered chicken casserole

I developed this recipe after watching the "Triple D All Stars" episode on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives Monday evening. My first thought was that it would make a good casserole for the residents at work. I prepared a four-inch hotel pan (pictured to right) for dinner Wednesday afternoon.

As I watched the chef demonstrate preparation of the casserole to Guy Fieri, I figured that it would be an easy dish to arrange. Since I've made enchilada casserole many times, I had the basic ingredients and proportions down. With only mental notes, I quickly made the creamy tomato and chile sauce and assembled the casserole as a layered dish. The residents enjoyed the casserole. It was a nice change from the regularly menued item.

Tonight I prepared a half recipe in a 12-inch camp Dutch oven. This oven will feed eight to 12 persons, depending on their level of hunger. If you have fewer mouths to feed, I would cut the recipe in half for a 10-inch Dutch oven.

This picture shows you how I distribute the tortillas in a Dutch oven. Laying four tortillas in a clover leaf pattern doesn't work in a round cooking vessel. The tortillas overlap in the center. As a result. the you end up with a big mass of tortillas in the center of the pot. I cut the tortillas in half, then distribute them as shown. Two halves cover the center.

My version of King Ranch chicken casserole. Since I live in California, I call it Tex-Mex layered chicken casserole. Interestingly, I was stationed at NAS Kingsville, Texas, for two years in the later 1970s and never heard of the casserole. The headquarters of the massive King Ranch in located near Kingsville.

Double the recipe and assemble in a 12 by 20 by 2-inch hotel pan in a camp setting. Cut 4 by 6 for 24 servings.

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced small
2 jalapeno chile peppers, diced small
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, scalded
1 cup chicken stock, hot
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chiles
3 tablespoons white wine or lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
16 corn tortillas, cut in half
2 pounds cooked chicken, shredded (white and dark best)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
12 ounces shredded cheddar and jack cheese blend

Heat oil in saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and sweat until soft, but do not brown. Stir in cumin and flour to form a roux. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Add milk, stock, tomatoes, green chiles, wine or juice and thyme to roux, stirring continually until thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and cumin.

Ladle 1 cup sauce into a 12-inch Dutch oven. Spread it across the bottom. Arrange 8 tortilla halves in over the sauce. Ladle 1 cup sauce on tortillas, then spread 1/3 of the meat, 1 tablespoon cilantro and 1/4 of the cheese over tortillas. Repeat layering process 2 more times. You will have 3 sauce, chicken and cheese layers when done.

Arrange 8 tortilla halves in over top layer. Ladle 1 cup sauce over tortillas. Spread remaining cheese over top. Bake with coals for 350 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, until casserole is cooked and cheese has melted. You want the bottom layer of tortillas to brown and top layer of cheese to crisp (without burning). Serves 8 to 12 campers.


  1. Steven,

    I have made a similiar recipe but in a springform pan. I made more layers with the tortillas. When released from the pan, it is easy to cut.


  2. Thanks, Elizabeth. Using a springform pan is a good idea. It lets you use perfecty sized tortillas (flour or corn) and stack them as high as you want.