Dairy-free King Ranch Chicken casserole with roasted poblano pepper. 

Dairy-free King Ranch Chicken casserole with roasted poblano pepper. 

Okay, folks, you're in for a treat: King Ranch Chicken.

Casserole? Yes.

Gross and/or mediocre? Absolutely not.

My mom being a native Texan, this dish was a regular at our dinner table. Then I moved out and kind of forgot about it for a decade, until I was throwing a Cinco de Mayo/Mexican-themed birthday party for a friend. I hung a pinata, made A LOT of margaritas, and needed a crowd pleasing dish that I could stretch to feed many, without breaking the bank. From somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, King Ranch Chicken broke loose and floated to the top. I didn't have a recipe to follow other than my mom's, which she sort of made by touch anyway. I also wanted to give it my own twist. I did some research and found this recipe from the Homesick Texan. It was fabulous. Two drool-covered thumbs up. This particular recipe, dubbed "Slightly Fancy Pants" by the Homesick Texan, utilizes a creamy sauce, poblano pepper and the layering of corn tortillas. So good. But, sadly, after that birthday party, I tucked the recipe away and didn't make it again.  

Fast forward to last fall. Right after Joel and I got married and returned from our honeymoon, we wanted to link up with some friends who had been instrumental in the success of our relationship, wedding, wedding departure, honeymoon departure, honeymoon pickup, etc. (When our limo failed to show, the husband literally drove us home and took photos of Joel carrying me across the threshold and then took us to the airport the next morning.) They're good friends. And also the parents of infant twins. The plan was to head to their place after church on a Sunday. We wanted to prepare and refrigerate something the night before to take with -- something we could pop in the oven at their house and hopefully leave behind for them to munch on for a few days. Make before? Refrigerate? Leftovers? Sounds like casserole! King Ranch Chicken did its break loose, floating thing again, only this time, I needed to find a way to make it without half-and-half, sour cream and cheese. I did so successfully, and you can, too. Joel and I also opted to grill the chicken and roast the poblano pepper before adding it into the casserole. Shut the front door, people. So good. 

Here's what you'll need:

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken (thighs or breasts)

Juice of 2 limes

1 TBSP chili powder

1 poblano pepper, halved and seeded

1 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP coconut oil

1 small to medium yellow onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 bunch of green onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic

1 can Ro-Tel with lime and cilantro, drained

1 tsp cumin

1 cup chicken broth

2 TBSP gluten-free flour

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 cups plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Corn tortillas

Coat the chicken with some lime juice (save a few teaspoons for later) and chili powder and grill until done. Then chop roughly. Set aside. 

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Rub the outside of the poblano halves with the olive oil, place skin up on a baking sheet and roast until the skin turns black, about 20 minutes. Remove and let cool completely. Peel off the black skin and dice the peppers. Set aside. 

Heat the coconut oil in a pot and add the yellow onion, half of the green onion and the red bell pepper. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds then stir in the flour, cumin, and cayenne pepper and cook for 1 more minute. Do not stop stirring. You're making a roux and do not want the flour or seasonings to burn. Make sure you have all ingredients pre-measured and stove-side. (Especially the chicken broth used in the next step.)

Pour in the chicken broth and cook on low until the mixture is thickened, a few minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the Greek yogurt, the Ro-Tel, and the chopped poblano. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pot and add the remaining cup of yogurt, about 2 teaspoons of lime juice, the cilantro and remaining green onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat.

Reduce the oven's temp to 350 degrees. 

Warm 10-12 corn tortillas on a griddle or in a skillet until they are barely crisp around the edges. 

Ladle 1/2 cup of the sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Place tortillas over the sauce, covering the bottom of the dish so there are minimal gaps. 

Add half the chicken and half of the remaining sauce. Repeat. Cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes to warm through. 

Top with sliced avocado and serve.