Found Recipes: Traditional King Ranch Casserole Sandy Pollock and Crystal Cook, aka the Casserole Queens, pass along a recipe for King Ranch Casserole. Sandy grew up with the cheesy Tex-Mex dish and says the traditional quick-fix doesn't need updating. Never mind if the casserole's origins have gotten mixed up along the way: This one's a keeper.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now to our Found Recipes series and again we're getting real and going retro. Last week, we were all about the crock pot and this week: casserole.

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BLOCK: Today, we have help from a pair of queens out of Austin, Texas.

SANDY POLLOCK: Hi, I'm Sandy Pollock.

CRYSTAL COOK: And I'm Crystal Cook.

POLLOCK: And we're the casserole queens.

COOK: And we're the casserole queens.

POLLOCK: I am often surprised that casseroles are not more embraced.

COOK: And we're just proud to be sort of the spokespeople for bringing back the 9X13.

BLOCK: Why? Because casseroles are delicious and easy. Plus, the 9X13 baking dish can feed a hungry herd, especially if it's a King Ranch Casserole, with chicken, tortillas and cheese.

POLLOCK: Beautiful South Texas flavors, great Tex-Mex, nice and spicy, cheesy, gooey, yummy warmness.

BLOCK: The taste of her childhood. As an adult, Sandy Pollock is a bonified ambassador for this Texas dish.

POLLOCK: King Ranch Casserole, high, proud and loud, baby girl. Whoo.

BLOCK: Her business partner, Crystal Cook, she's not feeling it. She's from Georgia. She wanted to update Sandy's family recipe with a modern spin, but she quickly learned why they say don't mess with Texas.

COOK: When Sandy introduced this casserole to me, it kind of got all the negative connotations that we try to fight as casserole queens every day. It's got not one, but two cans...

POLLOCK: Two.

COOK: ...of cream of something in them so I went to go change the way this King Ranch Casserole was developed, but Sandy, like, came in...

POLLOCK: Put the ix-nay on that buddy.

COOK: Yeah, fast.

POLLOCK: There's just some things that you just don't mess with, you know, and this was something that I have such specific memories about this dish as a kid that it just...

COOK: It's just the way your momma made it.

POLLOCK: It's the way momma made it. Thank you, Momma. Essentially, it is like all the flavors of South Texas. It's got Mexican cheeses. It's got Ro-Tel tomatoes, which are, you know, a mixture of tomato and green chiles and it's nice and it's got a kick and it's got - yeah, so it's got the two cans of cream soups in there, but they really just mellow everything out and some corn tortillas.

It's essentially like maybe a Mexican lasagna or, like, a deconstructed sort of enchilada plate.

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POLLOCK: The King Ranch Casserole, the history of it is a little murky. Nobody really knows 100 percent where it came from.

COOK: I would say it's iffy at best.

POLLOCK: Iffy at best. But the name comes from a ranch. It's the biggest ranch - one of the biggest ranches in the world and it's called The King Ranch and it's in Kingsville, Texas. But it's unlikely that it comes from that area, simply because it's a beef ranch and this has chicken in it and so, you know, there's all that to cook with.

COOK: And they were very, very proud of their beef. And I actually read a funny article. Basically the late Mary Clayberg(ph) who was the wife of the owner of the ranch, said she used to cringe, like her heart would drop every time some little well-meaning hostess would come to her house and present King Ranch Casserole to her because they didn't have anything to do with.

POLLOCK: And they probably particularly didn't like it.

COOK: She's choosing chicken and really all she wanted was a big hunk of beef.

POLLOCK: Exactly.

COOK: Even if it didn't come from King Ranch, I'm just glad it exists. I don't care what the history is as long as it's in my belly.

POLLOCK: Well, what I love about that is, like, any comfort food, it might sound weird to somebody else, but it's very regional, it's very specific to people's families and dear to their hearts and so your love for it has made me love it.

COOK: Thank you, Sandy.

POLLOCK: Thank you, Crystal.

BLOCK: Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollack, the casserole queens. You can get a King Ranch Casserole in your belly by following their recipe. It's at our Found Recipes page at NPR.org.

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