I kinda cheated on the recipe challenge today. I feel like I cheat on it if I change the recipe a bit, but I can’t help it. If I feel it must be done, it must be done.
Today was a something old, something new day. And let me tell you: the “new” recipe is not for the faint hearted. It is not a weeknight meal (unless you have already prepared it and have it on the counter coming to room temp all day…never recommended…so I go back to: this is not a weeknight meal). Unless you stay at home. Then, you can make it as a weeknight meal.
There are several steps to this recipe. Some of them could be made as shortcuts by using processed ingredients, but they would not be the same.
I better begin at the beginning before I completely scare you away.
Day 2: Monday, March 24, 2014: Cowboy Chicken Casserole (courtesy of Emeril Legasse, Foodnetwork.com)
Once upon a time, I visited my sister and brother-in-law when they lived in Texas. They had cable (or satellite), and on their TV was this great new channel (that we most certainly did not have): Food Network. Yah, I know. Hard to imagine a time without it.
And on that channel was this wonderful show where the chef cooked in front of a live audience and sometimes played drums and pulled open the fridge door and gave his audience stuff from the fridge. And said “Bam!” When we would go visit my sister, I would be glued to Food Network. I was in college at the time.
My sister and I once jointly made his chocolate strawberry shortcakes (trust me; if you haven’t you need to…I’m sure they are still on the site). She once made his lemon pancakes with blueberry syrup; I never realized until then that lemons and blueberries were meant to be together.
We finally FINALLY got Food Network on the TV at home, and I got to watch Emeril all the time as well as that “weird chef” Alton Brown.
I probably saw him prepare this recipe, but I didn’t realize that I would be making it, years later, as part of the recipe challenge.
What I like about this recipe is that, if your home is like mine and you have “unclipped” open bags of tortilla chips that happen to be left open by a snacking almost-four-year-old, you end up with a lot of stale tortilla chip crumbs. This recipe is great for that. If you need that excuse.
As I was reading through this, I thought the process sounded like another “Tex” Mex recipe…King Ranch Chicken. When I tasted it, I knew it did. Up till now, the best King Ranch Chicken recipe came from Cotton Country Collection. After today, I’m not so sure. I may have to tweak and merge the two.
Note: There is no cream of mushroom soup in this recipe. But you make your own condensed soup in the process.
Did I mention this is not an instant weeknight recipe?
Good. Just checkin’.
I am posting the recipe because I made several changes to the process.
Cowboy Chicken Casserole
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (Use stock, not broth. I purchased quart-size boxes from Albertson’s on sale a few weeks ago)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used the cheapest Chardonnay that Walmart sells…I am not a fan of dry white wine)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for plating garnish
1 1/2 T fresh lime juice (I used 2 limes that were not very juicy)
2 garlic cloves, smashed (and then roughly chopped)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
6 T unsalted butter
1 pound white button mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed, and quartered
pinch freshly ground black pepper
4 T all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 2% because that’s what we have, but the original recipe calls for whole milk)
3 cups crushed tortilla chips (I used some that had gone slightly stale at the bottom of some bags)
2 cups finely chopped onions (although next time I will either buy frozen and thaw or chop, freeze, and thaw so that they will be soft when the casserole is done)
1 cup finely chopped bell pepper (I used red. Again, next time I will use thawed from frozen)
8 ounces grated Pepper Jack
8 ounces grated cheddar
1 T Emeril’s Southwest Seasoning, recipe follows (I had to make a substitution or two there, as well)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can diced canned tomatoes, drained
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies
Combine the chicken, chicken stock, lime juice, garlic, peppercorns, 1 teaspoon salt, oregano, and bay leaves (Muffin put the bay leaves in) in a Dutch-oven-shaped stainless steel pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the chicken to cool in the poaching liquid for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and tear or cut into bite-sized pieces. If you discover the chicken is not completely done, microwave for 2 minutes or until done. Reserve the chicken. Strain the cooking liquid and reserve.
If you plan to cook immediately after preparing, preheat the oven now to 350 degrees F.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over high heat until foamy. Add the mushrooms, the remaining salt, and the black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid. Continue to cook until the mushrooms are golden brown and all the liquid has evaporated, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle the mushrooms with the flour, stir to blend, and cook one minute. Add the milk and stir, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken. Add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved chicken cooking liquid, stir, and cook until very thick and flavorful, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Place the tortilla chips in the bottom of your largest casserole dish. Pour the remaining cooking liquid over the tortilla chips and allow them to soak up the liquid. Scatter the chicken over the top of the tortilla layer. Spread the onions and peppers evenly over the chicken. Top with half of the grated cheeses. Sprinkle with Southwest Seasoning, chili powder, and cumin. Spoon the reserved mushroom mixture evenly over the top of the spices, then top with the tomatoes and chilies. Cover with the remainder of the cheeses.
Bake immediately for 40 to 45 minutes or bring to room temperature and cook for 40 to 45 minutes or until hot all the way through. Let sit at least five minutes before serving.
Serving suggestion: Sprinkle each serving with extra cilantro. You can never have too much cilantro! Serve with chips and salsa, especially Carol’s salsa.
Muffin seemed more interested in playing and watching TV than eating, but I think I could classify this recipe as Muffin Approved!
Verdict: The flavorful broth brings it to the gourmet level from the country casserole. Perfect for Mexican fiestas as well as dinner parties. King Ranch Chicken tends to be my mom’s funeral dish because it feeds a ton of people and people like it.
Emeril’s Southwest Seasoning
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried cilantro leaves (It calls for ground coriander, but that wasn’t happening)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Store leftovers tightly in a covered container.
How’s the challenge going for you today?