Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday – Week Twenty – Mississippi – King Ranch Chicken

Welcome to week 20 of Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday. This week we welcome the state of Mississippi, who joined the union on December 10, 1817. I will admit that this state was a challenge for me. They are again (and I apologize if this offends), a state that has a more dominant neighbor who sort of hordes the culinary and historical world. Mississippi is a bit of a ‘shadow’ when it comes to its Bayou and Cajun roots, with Louisiana being much more dominant in both areas. When searching out recipes that were specifically Mississippian, I found that they were so close to their neighbor that they were not unique. Think Gumbo, Jambalaya and Étouffée. I have done all of them, so where do we go?

If you search online, you will find two very distinct recipes; Mississippi Mud Pie and Mississippi Roast. The pie is actually not a Mississippi recipe. It is from California, of all places, and is named because the color reminded the creator of, well, Mississippi mud. The second one is actually from the state, but not my style. It is a crock pot recipe that uses packaged ranch dressing mix AND packaged gravy mix along with some pepperoncini to cook up a pot roast. Processed and full of sodium. Not thanks. It was created by a woman in the state, who in turn shared it with someone who wrote a blog about it, which then went viral. The creator did not name the dish, and has since been surprised that it has become one of the most ‘pinned’ recipes on Pinterest. A nice story, but it’s not what I made for dinner tonight.

I ended up at Barnes and Noble today, and spent some time perusing the cookbook aisle in search of some good southern dishes. What I found was many things that were southern, but I never actually found anything that said it was specifically Mississippian. What I did learn is that the state is known for its Delta tamales, sort of a spin on the traditional Mexican version, but with Cajun spices. Now, I have attempted tamales before and was not pleased with how they came out, and it is also not the season to find corn husks, so again I was stuck. But what I did find was a dish called KING RANCH CHICKEN, which took the idea of the southern tamale seasoning and turned it into an enchilada style dish. The cookbook did not give a specific history of the actual recipe, but there is some reference to it originating in Texas and moving to Mississippi with Mexican migrant workers.

This recipe uses a lot of different pepper seasonings, with the result having quite a kick, but not enough to make you run for the milk to kill the burn. It is a slow heat, with complex flavors that made the dish very interesting. It definitely has strong Tex-Mex influence, which surprises me that I am presenting it as a southern recipe, but whatever. I loved it. Josh thought it was great. I give it a solid A, and think that it leaves me with good thoughts on this state with a big neighbor. Take that Louisiana.

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King Ranch Chicken

King Ranch Chicken (from a cook book at Barnes and Noble; of which I cannot remember the name…oops).

Ingredients

8 tablespoons (1 stick), plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
2 cups chicken stock
2 (4.5 ounce) cans chopped green chiles, drained
1 (28 ounce) can diced original RoTel tomatoes, well drained
4 poblana chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped *see note
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
3 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts, shredded
12 corn tortillas
3 cups shredded Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9”x13” baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.

To make the sauce, melt 5 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, onion powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk and stock, whisking to avoid lumps. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sauce becomes think and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the green chiles, tomatoes and poblanos. Taste and season with salt and pepper; set aside.

To prepare the filling, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and mushrooms and sauté for 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and the mushrooms have given up their moisture. Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded chicken, tossing to combine.

To assemble, spoon ½ cup of the sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Arrange 6 tortillas on top of the sauce to cover the bottom evenly. Top with half of the chicken mixture, followed by ½ of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle on half of the cheese and half of the cilantro. Top with the remaining tortillas to cover the surface evenly. Repeat the layering with the remaining chicken, sauce, cheese and cilantro. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until heated through and bubbly. Allow the dish to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

*Roasting a poblano is simple. Take the whole peppers and place on a baking sheet. Turn oven to broil, and roast the peppers 4 inches from the flame, for 6 minutes a side. The pepper should be well charred on all sides. Immediately place the peppers in a plastic bag and seal. Once cooled, remove from the bag. The charred skin should remove easily, and you can then seed and chop them. If you cannot find poblano peppers, you can also use Anaheim or Jalapeno.

Enjoy! See you next week in Illinois!

Mississippi King Ranch Chicken
King Ranch Chicken
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