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King Ranch Chicken Casserole


    1 (4 1/2- to 5-lb. ) whole chicken
    2 celery ribs, cut into 3 pieces each
    2 carrots, cut into 3 pieces each
    2 1/2 to 3 tsp. salt
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
    1 garlic clove, pressed
    1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
    1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
    2 (10-oz.) cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon Mexican-style chili powder
    3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
    12 (6-inch) fajita-size corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips


1. If applicable, remove giblets from chicken, and reserve for another use. Rinse chicken.

2. Place chicken, celery, carrots, and salt in a large Dutch oven with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 50 minutes to 1 hour or until chicken is done. Remove from heat. Remove chicken from broth; cool 30 minutes. Remove and reserve 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Strain any remaining cooking liquid, and reserve for another use.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 6 to 7 minutes or until tender. Add bell pepper and garlic, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in reserved 3/4 cup cooking liquid, cream of mushroom soup, and next 5 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes.

4. Skin and bone chicken; shred meat into bite-size pieces. Layer half of chicken in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Top with half of soup mixture and 1 cup Cheddar cheese. Cover with half of corn tortilla strips. Repeat layers once. Top with remaining 1 cup cheese.

5. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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