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King Ranch Chicken Shells

It seems like a lifetime ago that I told you all that I was asked by Pepperidge Farms to cook up a simple, elegant regional dish from Texas using Puff pastry.  My choice in the end, the iconic King Ranch Casserole, done as an appetizer.

For those who have never heard of King Ranch Casserole, it’s basically a spicy chicken casserole made with corn chips in place of noodles and covered in cheese.  A description that completely fails to describe how absolutely wonderful it is. It’s almost Texan soul food.

O.K. It is Texan soul food.

At any rate While not utterly traditional, this version was a massive hit with everyone that I shared it with.  You can find the recipe below, but be sure to check out the Puff Pastry website where this recipe and those of other talented food bloggers are featured.  It was an honor to be included with other extremely talented bloggers to bring you some of the flavors that I love, so be sure to check all of them out.

King Ranch Chicken Shells
 
Mini puff pastry tarts are filled with a spicy chicken mixture and topped with melted cheese to make this outrageously good appetizer. Developed by Jerry Russell for Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half (about 6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup seeded diced New Mexico or Anaheim chile pepper
  • 1/4 cup seeded diced red pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon light chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup Swanson® Chicken Broth OR Swanson® Chicken Stock
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 plum tomato, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar and pepper Jack cheese blend
Method
  1. Drizzle the chicken with 1 tablespoon lime juice and season with the black pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 15 minutes or until well browned on both sides and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet.
  3. Finely chop the chicken.
  4. Heat the butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, chile pepper and red pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, flour, chili powder and cumin. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to low. Stir the chicken and broth in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the milk and tomato and cook until the mixture boils and thickens. Stir in the remaining lime juice, the sour cream and cilantro. Season with additional black pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  6. Heat the oven to 400°F.
  7. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 10×12-inch rectangle. Cut into 24 (2 x 2 1/2-inch) rectangles. Press the rectangles into 24 (1 3/4-inch) mini muffin-pan cups.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Using the back of a spoon, press down the centers of the hot pastries to make an indentation. Let the pastries cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
  9. Spoon about 1 tablespoon chicken mixture into each pastry. Top each with 1 teaspoon cheese.
  10. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let the pastries cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with additional chopped fresh cilantro, if desired.

What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:

Watch the spices! Make sure they’re fresh, or you’ll end up with a  bland batch that lacks the heat required here.  This dish should be a little spicy. If you bought your chili powder more than a few months ago, invest in a new jar.

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