King Ranch Chicken Casserole

I’ll have to admit, this was a new one to me, and I wasn’t prepared to love it as much as I do. First of all, I’m not a fan of corn tortillas. I think their texture is odd, and the flavor can be overpowering. Secondly, there are not a lot of ingredients that go into this, so I was expecting something on the bland side. I was wrong…

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

King Ranch Chicken comes from Texas, known for BBQ and Tex-Mex. Some Texians believe this Casserole is the state’s “official casserole” if such a thing exists. All I know is it was much better than I expected, and we ate every bit of the 9×13″ dish over the course of a couple of days.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken *
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can diced tomato and green chiles (Rotel works great)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 corn tortillas torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese **
  • Sour Cream on the side when you serve (optional)

* I poached 2-3 chicken breasts in chicken broth and heavily seasoned it with Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning. Bring to a low boil and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until an internal temperature of at least 165 F. Let cool for another 30 minutes in the cooking liquid (off heat), then dice into bite-sized chunks.

** You can use more cheese; I certainly did.

Preheat oven to 350 F and adjust one of your racks to the middle of the oven.

Over medium-high heat, sauté bell pepper and onion in a large skillet for 5-7 minutes. Make sure your skillet can contain all the ingredients listed above (bigger is better here).

Add diced chicken, Cream of Chicken and Mushroom soups, Rotel, and all the seasonings. Mix well and heat through on medium-low heat.

Lightly grease a 9×13″ casserole dish and add 1/3 of the torn corn tortillas to cover the bottom. Add 1/3 of the chicken mixture and spread evenly. Top with 1/3 of the cheese.

Repeat 2 more times until you have used all the ingredients. This is where you can add more cheese or even a different cheese, like parmesan, if you prefer.

Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes.

Serve with a small side of Sour Cream if you’re feeling adventurous.

This casserole reheats well in the microwave, and it should freeze well if you don’t eat it all in a couple of days. The corn tortillas really added to this dish; without them, the flavor wouldn’t be nearly as good. Some alternate ingredients are jalapeno peppers, fresh garlic, and more bell pepper.

What’s your favorite casserole? Share a link in the comments.

Scalloped Potato Gratin

I’ve made this dish around the holidays for years and brought it out last weekend to go with a baked ham we were eating for dinner. It’s a pretty straight forward potato dish but the flavors and textures are really incredible. You can use as much, or as little, thyme and garlic as you like. I think it’s better on the more side.


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more to finish
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices*
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for broiling 


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a saucepan, heat up the heavy cream with the thyme, garlic, and nutmeg

While the cream is heating up, butter a 9×13″ casserole dish. Place a layer of potatoes in an overlapping pattern and season with salt and pepper.

Remove the cream from the heat and ladle a little over the potatoes and top with some of the Parmesian. Make 2-3 more layers, bake uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese browns.

*A mandolin slicer (or a food processor with a slicing disk) is the best way to get uniform slices that will cook evenly.

Herb Crusted Standing Rib Roast (Prime Rib) always get lots of hits from people looking for holiday food ideas.  I first posted this back in 2008 and every December it gets several hundred views.  I thought I’d re-post this to make it easier to find for those of you looking for it.

The Red Wine Sauce takes time and effort but it’s totally worth it.  Don’t forget the Horseradish Cream Sauce too!

From 2008:

The holidays are the time to break out the big guns and impress your friends and family.  We cooked our first standing rib roast a few years ago rib-roast-rawand it’s the go to dish for at least one family gathering each year.  A standing rib roast is NOT a cheap cut of meat but you’ll be surprised how many people you can feed with one of these, so when you break it down per person it’s not as bad as you think.

You order your standing rib roast by the bone.  Plan on feeding 2 people  per bone and don’t go less than 3-4 bones or you might as well cook streaks.  A quality instant read thermometer is key to cooking the perfect roast.  You can ball park the doneness with a timer but only a thermometer will tell you how far the inside has cooked.  Do yourself a favor & don’t ruin an expensive piece of meat by winging it.

I keep it simple when cooking my roast:

Olive oil
Herbs de Provence

That’s it!  Make sure you bring your roast to room temperature (30-45 min) before cooking or you can guarantee it will be raw when the outside rib-roast-cookedis done.

Put oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.

Put beef, fat side up, in a small roasting pan and brush on a light coating of olive oil.  Sprinkle all over with salt,  pepper and herbs.

Roast beef 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and roast until thermometer inserted into center of meat registers 115°F, about 1 1/4 hours more.

Transfer beef to a cutting board and let stand, uncovered, 25-30 minutes.

Meat will eventually reach 125°F (medium-rare).

Adjust the cooking time accordingly to reach the desired doneness.  End pieces will be more done than the center pieces so you should be able to make everyone happy.

Be sure to accompany this roast with a delicious Red Wine Sauce.  Enjoy & happy holidays!

Indianapolis – Eddie Merlot’s

Last Friday, after a long work week, we received an invite from our good friends to go to dinner (good timing!).  Several options were on the table but one stood out, Eddie Merlot’s.  Having never dined there but hearing lots of good things we grabbed a reservation (surprisingly easy to do on a Friday night) and headed out.

I declined the Valet Parking since there were parking spaces right by the door (**rant in a future blog post**) & we met our friends in the bar.  The hostess greeted us and said our table was ready whenever we were (good start so far since many places over book and you still wait for a table even with a reservation.  I’m talking to YOU Bonefish & PF Changs!).

After a few minutes of catching up with our friends we headed to our table and met our waiter who was very friendly.  Since this was our first time at Eddie’s he explained the concept of the restaurant and offered some suggestions from the menu.

We started with a few appetizers for all of us to share including the Shrimp Cocktail, BBQ Shrimp & Fried Green Tomatoes (the last one being part of the Farm-2-Fork promotion currently going on).  The Shrimp Cocktail is brought out on a bed of dry ice and is quite the head turner.  The Shrimp were very large, nicely chilled and accompanied by a spicy (horseradish) sauce.  The BBQ Shrimp were wrapped in bacon, grilled & covered in a tasty BBQ sauce.

Finally, the Fried Green Tomatoes had a nice tasting coating and the dipping sauce was pretty good.  The problem was they were sliced a little too thick for the amount of time they were cooked.  This resulted in a fairly raw and crunchy tomato.  We mentioned this to our waiter who quickly sent the manager over.  He agreed with the thickness issue, exchanged some pleasantries and promptly removed the item from the tab without another word (continuing the good service for the evening).

Here’s how the appetizers stacked up (I’m only ranking what I actually tasted):

  • Shrimp Cocktail 4.5 out of 5
    • There were four pieces in the order.  Six would have resulted in a perfect score
  • BBQ Shrimp 4.5 out of 5
    • Same comment as above
  • Fried Green Tomatoes 2 out of 5
    • These had potential but were sliced to thick & not cooked long enough

Three out of the four of us at the table had steak,  two filets and one rib-eye.  I can’t pass up a quality rib eye & this one was no exception.  Perfectly cooked med-rare and covered in sautéed mushrooms, just the way I like it.  This was a good steak & I didn’t want it to end.

The fourth member of our party ordered off the Farm-2-Table menu and selected the “fried” chicken.  It was more like a quartered chicken that was roasted and stuffed with Swiss cheese and ham (reminiscent of a chicken cordon-blue).  The small sample I had was very good.  One of the better chicken dishes I’ve tasted in a while.  This may be my selection on our next visit if the promotion is still going on.

Our sides included more sautéed mushrooms , asparagus , steamed broccoli and truffle Parmesan fries.  Everything was good with the exception of the fries.  Our waiter even said they were not his first choice but I was being stubborn and ordered them anyway.  He was right.  The fries were oily and pretty bland.  Having been warned, I learned my lesson and did not make a fuss.

Scoring for the main course:

  • Rib-eye (med-rare) 5 out of 5
    • Great flavor, perfectly cooked and nicely trimmed
  • Filet (med-rare & medium)
    • I was told it was cooked perfectly & that’s not always easy to do with this cut
  • Chicken 5 out of 5
    • My bite was juicy, tender and left me wanting to order it in the future
  • Mushrooms 5 out of 5
    • Great flavor and a nice mixture of fungi
  • Asparagus 5 out of 5
    • I had one sprig, pretty hard to screw this one up
  • Broccoli
    • I’m told it was good but I did not waste room in my belly for this
  • Truffle Fries 1 out of 5
    • These could have been much better but, even if they were, still not worth $8

We’re already somewhat food drunk but the good conversation and nice atmosphere lead us into dessert (something I rarely get).  My wife and I split the Red Velvet cake & our friends ordered the Apple Peach Crisp and Berry Cobbler.  Three of the four of us had coffee which is something I find myself getting more and more after a big meal.  I know it’s a little old fashioned but I like the nostalgia.

Dessert Ranking:

  • Red Velvet Cake 5 out of 5
    • There was enough for all four of us to share.  VERY good and just as good the next day
  • Apple Peach Crisp
    • I was told this was really good
  • Berry Cobbler
    • Another good choice

Our overall first impression of Eddie Merlot’s was quite favorable and we are going to definitely add this to our short list of places to go for an upscale night out.  Our daughter has a birthday (14 yrs) coming up and this may be a good place to take her to celebrate the occasion.  She’s turning into quite the foodie and I don’t think the quality will be lost on her at all.

This is definitely not one of the least expensive meals you can get in the Keystone area.  Our bill topped the $200 mark before gratuity but that included a couple of cocktails, apps, entrees, sides and a desert.  We definitely ordered a lot of food and will probably be a little more restrained on the next visit.

I’ll have to say that Eddie Merlot’s has lived up the praise it’s been given.  From the friendly staff to the quality of the food and relaxed atmosphere it has left a very positive impression on us and we’re already looking forward to visiting again.

Eddie Merlot's on Urbanspoon

Beef and Horseradish Salad

Flank Steak is one of those universal pieces of beef that can perform many duties.  It can be used as a substitute for shirt/hanger steak when making Fajitas and it takes marinade very well.  The only caution about Flank Steak is it gets tough the longer you cook it.  If you like your meat well done, Flank Steak is not the cut for you…

1 pound flank steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups julienne red onions
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped green onions
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup grated horseradish
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
4 cups assorted baby greens
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Preheat the grill. Season the flank steak with salt, peper and olive oil.

Place the steak on the grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

Remove the steak from the grill and slice into 1-inch slices.

Toss the beef with the red onions, parsley and green onions. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, horseradish, lemon juice, Dijon, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. Mix thoroughly.

Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the dressing for 1 hour.

Toss the greens with the dressing and mound in the center of the plate. Arrange the steak and onions around the greens.

Garnish with the cheese and chives.