Every year for my birthday my Mom has the family over for a meal and every year we have this same conversation a few days prior….
Mom: So what do you want me to make for your Birthday dinner?
Me: Your Chicken Enchiladas.
Mom: But I made that last year.
Me: Yep and it’s my favorite.
Mom: Well else do you want me to make?
Me: I don’t really care I just want your Chicken Enchiladas. Oh and your “Texas” Chocolate Sheet Cake….
My Mom’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole, also known as “King Ranch” Casserole is hands down one of my favorite meals she makes. To me it is the ultimate cheesy, gooey, Tex-Mex comfort food. My Mom usually serves her Chicken Enchilada Casserole with some form of Pinto Beans, Tortilla Chips and a Green Salad and it’s always a crowd pleaser. In fact I’m not sure I have ever met someone who didn’t like love Chicken Enchilada Casserole. I even love this dish so much that I made a spicy soup version of this Casserole… Mel’s Chicken Enchilada Soup Recipe
I have grown up watching my Mom make this for as long as I can remember. There wasn’t even any need for the recipe to be written down because I thought I knew exactly how to make it. So when it came to writing everything down for the blog that’s when I made the discovery…. My mom and I don’t quite make the same dish.
I couldn’t remember if my Mom started with a layer of corn tortillas in the bottom of the casserole dish or of the chicken and soup mix first. Naturally then, I picked up the phone and called to ask which came first and the answer is the corn tortillas. Then there was the debate between my Mom and me on whether she dipped the corn tortillas in hot chicken broth to soften them before layering them in the casserole. She said that she didn’t do that, but I could distinctively remember dipping the corn tortillas in the hot chicken broth because that used to be my job. So I pulled out the McKeown Family Cookbook thinking that surly my Mom submitted her recipe for Chicken Enchilada Casserole only to discover that she didn’t. There was however 3 recipes submitted for this classic Texas dish and my Grandmother submitted one of them. I started to read the prologue to my Grandmother’s recipe and it went like this…. “Everyone knows what a good cook Gladys (my Grandmothers eldest sister and my Great Aunt) was. Her recipes are some of my favorites. She was always happy when someone wanted one of her recipes and she would gladly share them. Of all the recipes for chicken enchiladas, I have never tasted one that I like as much as this one of Gladys’.”
This recipe was similar to my Moms but not quite the same. So I went on to the next Chicken Enchilada Casserole recipe… This one was submitted by another one of my Great Aunts and was also Gladys’ recipe, but it was very different from the one my Grandmother submitted. While it was also similar to my Mom’s it was still not the same.
So I looked at the last recipe…this recipe was submitted by another Great Aunt, and (you guessed it) was also a Gladys’ recipe.
Three different family recipes and none exactly the way my Mom makes hers. Then it hit me what makes family recipes so wonderful is the fact that they are handed down from one person to another and they change with each passing. My grandmother recipe wasn’t the same as her sisters, my Mom’s recipe not quite the same as my grandmothers and mine not quite the same as my mothers.
For the most part we all used the same ingredients but all in slightly different ways. Reading about all these different recipes that were all from my Great Aunt Gladys really made me laugh… Did she REALLY ever give someone her exact recipe? Or did she give everyone slightly different versions on purpose? How many different versions of this recipe exist out there now?
The only thing that I do differently than my Mom is I cheat and purchase a whole smoked chicken instead of boiling chicken for this recipe. I love the smoky flavor that it adds to this casserole. Plus when I can purchase a smoke rotisserie chicken for the same price as 3 raw chicken breasts I will choose the smoked chicken every time. Apparently I also dip my corn tortillas in hot chicken broth to soften them and my Mom doesn’t do that anymore.
So without much further ado here is the recipe for my Mom’s Chicken Enchilada Casserole with my slight variations…
Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Cooked Chicken, shredded in to bite sized pieces
2 Tablespoons of Butter
1 Yellow Onion, diced
1 10oz. can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 10 oz. can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 10oz. can of Original Ro-Tel, (pureed in a food processor)
2 Cup of Chicken Stock
½ Teaspoon Garlic Powder
20 Corn Tortillas, cut into quarters
16oz. Grated Cheddar Cheese
Pre-Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a large pot over medium heat with the 2 Tablespoons of butter. Sauté the diced onion in the butter until tender, then add in the cans of cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soups, and the shredded chicken. Puree the Ro-Tel in a food processor until smooth then add it to the cream soups and the onion along with half a teaspoon of garlic powder. Add black pepper to taste. Bring everything up to a boil then remove for the heat.
Bring the 2 cups of chicken stock up to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
Cover the bottom of a greased 9×13 baking pan with a layer of the corn tortillas that have been quickly dipped in chicken broth. Pour 1/3 of the chicken enchilada mixture on top of the tortilla layer, top with 1/3 of the cheese and sprinkle on a little chili powder. Repeat 2 more times. Cook 45 minutes until the cheese is browned.
Hope y’all enjoy this classic family recipe and let me know what you think.