A Texas Tradition: Frying Optional

Aug 28 2013

by Terri Duhon

The State Fair of Texas has released the list of finalists for their Big Tex Choice Award. This list has become a source of fascination for people around the world as the newest in deep-fried fare is debuted at the famous fair. This year, fair-goers can eat Fried Nutella, Deep Fried Cuban Roll, and even Fried Thanksgiving Dinner. They’re all served in a form that can be easily enjoyed as you walk through the fairgrounds.

One of the contenders for this award is Fernie’s Deep Fired King Ranch Casserole. It’s a Texas-shaped pattie that’s been breaded and fried. For those outside of the Lone Star State, this casserole may be unfamiliar. There’s no clear story when it comes to the history of this dish. It is named after one of the world’s most famous ranches, King Ranch, near Kingsville, Texas, but there is no proof it originated there.

It’s a hearty, homey, layered dish that has some of the best flavors of Tex-Mex combined in one dish. It’s perfect for sharing, making it a popular choice as a funeral dish or a bit of comfort for a friend who’s been blessed with a new baby. It’s definitely one of those “Add a salad and a loaf of crusty bread and you’ve got a meal” dishes.

Now, I don’t know what’s in Fernie’s fried version, but this is my mama’s recipe, with a few additions of my own. Yes, there are canned soups included in this recipe. I don’t use them often, but this is one of my old recipes for which I reserve them. I usually like a mixture of dark and white meat in a casserole, but for this mix, white meat really does work best.

Try it out for yourself and if you can figure out how to deep fry it, let me know how that worked!

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

8 large, halved chicken breasts

2 celery stalks, including leaves

1 onion, quartered

½ bell pepper, cut in strips

2 cloves garlic

t teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon cumin

½ can Ro-Tel tomatoes

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

½ cup chicken stock

8 corn tortillas, cut in strips

1 cup tortilla chips

1 ½ cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

In a large pot, place the chicken breasts and fill with enough water to cover. Add celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 45 minutes).

Strain the broth through a colander, reserving ½ cup and freezing the rest for later use. Allow the chicken to cool and then shred the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. Chop the stewed bell pepper strips.

In a medium bowl, combine the chopped bell pepper, tomatoes, soups and stock.

In a casserole dish, layer half the tortillas and chips, chicken, tomato mixture and cheese. Repeat, ending with cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly.


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