The trouble with being so in awe of such an enormous country is that you know you’ll never have the time, money nor inclination to get to grips with the entire place. I don’t think there’s one single state in the US that I wouldn’t deem worthy of a trip to, but with 50 states spread over thousands of miles and some states being worthy of multiple visits, it’s not going to happen without a pretty big lottery win. I’d like to believe that one day I really will win the lottery, but considering I always forget to buy a ticket each week the odds are pretty slim. This fascination with America then and my lack of millions goes some way to explaining the many cookbooks focusing on the country that adorn my bookshelf. To make the most of these books and get more mileage out of them, the theme running through my blogs for the next few weeks will be focusing on the Deep South of the States and the food originating from the region. Or until I get bored and move on, don’t be too shocked if the next blog is all about pasta. I’m fickle like that.
The Deep South apparently consists of the states Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. I thought it also included Texas and did so up until writing that last sentence, so for the purpose of this blog and to save my blushes, Texas is now part of the Deep South. In my defence it is right next to Louisiana. I’m not one to let facts get in the way of a good recipe. Today I cooked from The Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain and is a collection of the foods she grew up with in Texas before moving to New York. The book is filled with classic photos depicting the Lone Star state – think cowboy boots, vast stretches of road and no mans land, cattle and great big slabs of meat- as well as recipes a true Texan would know and love. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that Texas is up there as one of the states I’d really, really like to visit compared to just really wanting to visit (it still has to contend with California, Maine, Louisiana, Georgia and the Carolina’s – stiff competition). I can’t even tell you why I want to visit it, it’s just so iconic and I think of it as the essence of America, if that makes any sense. When I think of America, two images come immediately to mind, one of which is the New York skyline and the other the cattle horns and cowboy boots of Texas. Get me on that plane to Dallas, please.
Fancy-pants king ranch chicken casserole is the dish I cooked, and yes, that is the title given to it in the book. Most magnificent a name. It’s certainly unique. Lisa tells me that this casserole is one of the most popular ones that Texans make but does not go into the provenance of the name. Even though there are a lot of ingredients for this, if you have a well stocked spice cupboard and vegetable drawer you’ll probably have no problem throwing this together. The chicken breasts are fried in a marinade of ancho chilli powder, lime juice and salt, then shredded and added into a homemade enchilada sauce which is then layered in a baking dish with corn tortillas and lots of cheese. To call it a casserole is pretty misleading as after cooking I would describe it more as an enchilada lasagna (lasagna like in structure alone, with the tortillas replacing lasagna sheets) and a really delicious one at that. It’s subtly spicy, creamy and very cheesy and the perfect antidote to the cold weather, the return to work and the endless diet adverts. Despite all the peppers and tomatoes in the casserole it’s not particularly healthy with all the butter and cheese but mentally it’s the equivalent of sitting in front of the fire with a cosy blanket and a good book – pure comfort. It got the thumbs up from The Fiancé too, which is a rarity when it comes to me experimenting with lesser used cookbooks. If you want to give this recipe a try have a gander at her website The Homesick Texan where you’ll find this very recipe.
It’s safe to say that this recipe has done nothing to dissuade me from wanting to check out Texas, in fact it’s just made me keener to visit. Better start buying those lottery tickets.