I can honestly say that in my life since moving out on my own almost 10 years ago, I have never made a “traditional” casserole. If you were born after 1940, you know what kind of casserole I’m talking about…the kind that involves canned cream of ::fill in the blank:: soup. We’re all familiar with them as most of us grew up with them as staples in our mother’s cooking repertoires and I’m not ashamed to admit that I likely ate them with gusto as a kid myself – hello “clean plate club!” However, as an adult, I figured out how to read a nutritional label (holy sodium batman!) and understood what everything actually meant…and I proceeded to banish all canned soup from my pantry, including the broth soups I had been eating for lunch for months when soup was the only thing I could afford during graduate school. So needless to say, “traditional” casseroles have not been a part of my adult life.
And then in walks The Pastry Queen with her seductive homemade casserole boasting its mighty name. After all the amazing recipes I’ve made from this book, how could I turn this casserole down? I couldn’t. And I didn’t. And I fell head over heels for this dish – we both did, actually. After all my lamenting about the unhealthiness of canned soup, don’t let me fool you into thinking this recipe is healthy because it definitely is a “once a year” kind of meal, but at least by making a homemade sauce, you’re able to control the ingredients that go into it. I made the recipe as written except that I halved it, used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, and used one poblano chile and one jalapeño. The sauce, while not all that appealing to look at, is downright fantastic; it’s what makes this whole meal so great. The mushrooms disappear into the sauce and by the time the casserole made its way to my plate, I had forgotten they were even involved. Be prepared for some spice with this dish but it’s more a smokey heat than a burn-your-tongue-off heat and if you’ll be serving this to kids or lightweight adults, you can cut back on the amount of fresh chiles you use. Overall, this King Ranch Casserole is a complete winner in our book and I won’t hesitate to bring this to any potluck or serve it for a casual dinner with guests.