I don't write very much on this blog about my ability to cook. Mainly, because I don't have a huge ability to cook.
I like to flatter myself and think my family might disagree with that - as they always tell me what a great cook I am. But I know I am certainly not what some of the foody bloggers out there today are - so I don't even bother.
And let me make this statement right now: I am a cook. I am not a baker.
Meaning? Meaning that if you were to die you would really prefer I bring my hot chicken salad to your loved ones and NOT my Oreo pie. One tastes like heaven. One looks like poop.
Or if you were to have a baby you might secretly hope that I show up at your door with a casserole in one hand a People magazine in another. Whereas you might secretly hope I trip and fall while carrying my chocolate chip cookies. Because one is hot and satisfying and the other looks like a virus carrying bird "laid" it on your car window.
So you see the difference?
But last night my new friend, Karli, asked me - ME! - to make a special dinner at our church to feed 18 people. I asked her what she wanted me to make and here's what she said, "Oh, I don't care. You decide. I just heard you were a great cook, so whatever you come up with is fine with me."
Did I mention she's a NEW friend? I suspect that newness will wear off just any day now.
So I gave Karli the run-down of my top three dinners.
- My grilled chicken pasta with a creamy Alfredo sauce, packed with sauteed onions, bacon and bowtie pasta.
- My poppyseed chicken with tons of buttery Ritz crackers on top, lying on top of a bed of white rice. With a poppyseed pasta salad and rolls on the side.
- Or my King Ranch Chicken. A Texas classic. Full of chicken and cheese, sour cream, corn tortillas and more cheese. It's rich and warm and ooey-gooey.
Oh, and...and here's where things get a little sticky......I had never actually made it before. But I told her I had. Because, again, she's a new friend. But also because I have eaten it my ENTIRE life. Every woman in my family makes it and although I have never actually made the dish myself I feel pretty certain I could make it in my sleep. Or in a cheese induced coma, whichever came first. And wouldn't you know it? This is the one she wanted. The one dish I'd never made - is the one dish she wanted.And if there's one thing my momma always taught me (other than how to make King Ranch Chicken) it's that you gotta give the people what they want.
So here is the recipe. It's nothing special. You can find this recipe or a million more like it online somewhere. (So please don't think I'm like Phoebe Buffett when she told Monica her grandmother had left her a special chocolate chip cookie recipe but it was actually the one from the Nestle' Toll House bag.) I'm telling you upfront - it's not the recipe that's special. It's the food.
So eat up. Enjoy. And remember that if you and I are to ever become new friends, I might lie and tell you something like, "Sure, I've run with the bulls. It was no big deal." Just don't make me pull out the pictures to prove it. I'll just be embarrassed.
Let me know what you think!
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.