The other day we were watching a rerun of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives that featured the Monument Cafe. It is a very cool restaurant in Georgetown, Texas that uses organic, locally sourced foods in their dishes. They have a garden in which they grow ingredients, and also a fresh market for buying your own supplies. In short, it sounds like an amazing place that I would really love to visit!
But until I can make my way down to Texas, I’ll have to settle with recreating one of the recipes featured on the show – the King Ranch Hand Casserole.
I made a few substitutions to this recipe because a couple of my family members have decided they have picky palates and wish to avoid chicken. So I used beef instead of chicken – which, I know, makes it not the REAL casserole, but you can switch out the beef for cubed chicken. We are also a gluten-free family because my husband has an allergy and I have a sensitivity to gluten.
One of my favorite parts of this recipe is that you can avoid using processed foods – many other recipes that I have seen for King Ranch Hand Casserole use store bought soups, dips, or even cheese products. For this one, I did open one can – diced tomatoes, but if I had been up on my canning game last year, I would’ve been able to open a jar I made myself. I did have the chicken stock previously canned, so that was nice!
While there are many ingredients that I make on my own, I have given up the dream of making corn tortillas on my own. Keep in mind that when you’re shopping for corn tortillas you have to make sure that they are gluten-free (if you need gluten free) because not all of them are automatically. So definitely check your label on that. I have found some uncooked tortillas that I love – they’re free of gluten, preservatives, saturated fats, and cholesterol. The ingredient list is very short and easy to read. Here they are in all their glory:
When I was preparing this dish, I started with browning the ground beef and adding the spices (which I don’t really measure, I just throw in), and also cooking the tortillas. So it took a bit longer prep than if you started with taco meat and already cooked tortillas. Or even leftover chicken, which is really the preferred way I think I would use leftovers! So in all, my prep time was quite a bit longer than normal, but still not too crazy.
And the best part – after it was all said and done and the casserole was baked, it received rave reviews from my family! So I’m happy to share with you my recipe for King Ranch Hand Casserole with Beef:
Gluten-Free King Ranch Casserole (with beef) inspired by the recipe from Monument Cafe on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
- 2.5 pounds ground beef
- 2 TBSP chili powder
- 1 TBSP cumin
- 1 TBSP garlic powder
- 1/2 TBSP onion powder
- 1 TBSP oregano
- 1 c water
- 1/4 c vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 green peppers, chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 6 white mushrooms, chopped
- 1/4 c white wine (I used dandelion)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 TBSP cumin
- 1 TBSP chili powder
- 1 1/2 c diced tomatoes
- 2 TBSP diced jalapenos (add more if you like it hot!)
- 1/3 cup gluten free flour (I used Pamela's Pancake and Baking Mix)
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 12-14 corn tortillas (can use flour. I used 14 because that was what came in the package of uncooked tortillas that I used)
- 4 cups Mexican style shredded cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
- Brown ground beef in skillet
- Drain fat from meat and return meat to skillet
- Add spices to meat
- Add water to meat
- Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until water has reduced and spices are coating meat.
- Heat vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat.
- Add onions, peppers, and celery.
- Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in garlic and cook one minute.
- Stir mushrooms and cook through, about two minutes.
- Turn heat up to high and add white wine to deglaze. Stir with spoon to get the brown bits off the bottom of the pan as the white wine boils up. Turn the heat back down to medium.
- Cook until almost all the liquid has been absorbed into the vegetables.
- Add salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, and jalapenos.
- Cook for one minute.
- Slowly whisk in flour until a gravy or paste forms.
- Whisk in the chicken stock.
- When the mixture reaches a soupy consistency, whisk in the milk.
- Cook over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes until it reduces and thickens.
- Remove sauce from heat.
- First add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to the bottom of the casserole dish and spread it around so that the tortillas won't stick.
- Add a layer of tortillas on the bottom of the casserole dish
- Add a layer of 1/2 the meat (if you have a casserole dish with deep sides, you can do 1/3 meat and make a taller dish)
- Sprinkle on 2/3 cup cheese.
- Add spoonfuls of sauce on top of the cheese.
- Repeat the layers of tortilla, meat, and cheese once or twice more depending on how high the sides of your casserole dish are - you don't want to overflow.
- For the top, use a layer of tortillas, the remaining sauce, and the remaining cheese.
- Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees F