Potluck Royalty: Make This King Ranch Chicken

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If you need triple-tested, much-beloved recipes for your favorite Southern comfort foods, turn to the experts at Southern Living magazine's test kitchen. Craving a new spin on an old favorite? The editors' new collection, Texas BBQ, is stacked and loaded with everything you need to know to churn out perfect fare. This king ranch chicken is a quintessential player in every great Southern potluck. 

You can't attend a church supper, potluck, wedding shower, or swap meet in South Texas without encountering this gooey, cheesy, spicy casserole dish.

Reprinted with permission from Texas BBQ

Potluck Royalty: Make This King Ranch Chicken
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This king ranch chicken is a quintessential player in every great Southern potluck. Fire up the smoker, gather a crowd and prepare to feast.
Prep Time
Cook Time
  • vegetable cooking spray
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped poblano peppers (about 2 medium peppers)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 2 pounds Smoked Chicken
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 18 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 to 4 oak, hickory or pecan wood chunks
  • 1 cup firmly packed piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) (about 1 8-ounce cone)
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 3 3/4- to 4-pound whole chickens
  1. :::chicken:::
  2. Soak the wood chunks in water to cover 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the piloncillo and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub the chickens with the piloncillo mixture, and let stand 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare the smoker according to manufacturer’s directions. Place water pan in smoker; add water to depth of fill line. Bring internal temperature to 225° to 250°F, and maintain temperature 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Drain the wood chunks, and place on coals. Place the chickens on cooking grate; cover with smoker lid. Smoke 2 1⁄2 to 3 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion of thighs registers 165°F.
  6. Remove the chickens from smoker, and let stand 20 minutes before slicing.
  7. :::king ranch:::
  8. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and next 3 ingredients; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook 1 minute.
  9. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Add the tomatoes and sour cream. Stir together the chicken and cilantro; stir in the vegetable mixture until blended. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl.
  10. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high. Lightly brush each tortilla on both sides with oil. Cook the tortillas, in batches, in hot skillet until lightly browned and crisp on both sides.
  11. Line the bottom of prepared baking dish with 6 tortillas, overlapping slightly, to cover bottom of dish. Top with half of the chicken mixture and one-third of the cheese. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining tortillas and cheese. Lightly coat a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and cover baking dish.
  12. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
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