Chicken Tinga Tacos
A few months ago, I picked up a copy of the America's Test Kitchen Mexican recipes magazine at the grocery store checkout. I'm a big fan of ATK, so much so that I actually follow all of their recipes to the letter. This little magazine had over a 100 recipes and I've made quite a few of them: a delicious chicken mole, cilantro rice, huevos rancheros, and now, chicken tinga! The key ingredients in chicken tinga are chipotle peppers and tomatoes. Chipotle peppers are preserved jalapenos, in a spicy sauce. You can buy them at any grocery store and a small can will last a few weeks. Chipotle peppers can be spicy and one pepper goes a long way. I love adding them into soups, stews, and my hummus for a smoky kick of flavor. In terms of tomatoes, I've made this recipe with canned and fresh tomatoes and while canned tomatoes are generally better for soups and stews, I liked this recipe better with fresh tomatoes. It's summer and ripe heirloom tomatoes are hard to beat but depending on availability, canned can also yield a pretty solid result.
The last note I have is to let this simmer on low (hashtag low simmer, amirite?) to reduce the sauce. This is a very saucy taco filling, which will soak through the tortilla much quicker than some other fillings, so concentrating that sauce will not only deepen the flavor but also produce a less messy taco. Alternatively, you can keep this more saucy and eat it over a bowl of rice, salsa, pickles, and some green vegetables - I haven't tried this myself but as I write this, it sounds like a better and better idea.
- 2 chicken breasts or 4-6 chicken thighs, skinless
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes or 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (skip if using canned tomatoes)
- 2 chipotle peppers + 1 tsp adodo sauce
- 1/2 fresno chili, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano (available at most grocery stores)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (skip if using canned tomatoes)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Corn tortillas, warmed
- Salad greens, lightly dressed in olive oil, salt, and pepper
- Queso fresco, crumbled
- Optional: pickled radishes, carrots, onions, etc.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan, such as a dutch oven, over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and heated, sear the chicken, 3-4 mins on each side. As you're searing the chicken, season with salt and pepper. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
In the same pan, add the other 1 tbsp olive oil and add in the onion and chopped chili and cook for 5 mins. Once the onion has picked up some color and begun to soften, add in the garlic and tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 5 mins.
Next, add in the chopped tomatoes, chipotle peppers, and adobo sauce. Lower the heat slightly and cook this for 5 mins, or until the tomatoes have softened and easily fall apart. Mix in the oregano, ground cumin, and cook for 2-3 mins. Next, puree the sauce; I used an immersion blender but if you don't have that, use your regular blender and when complete, move the sauce back to the pan.
Add in the seared chicken pieces to the sauce. If the chicken pieces are not almost-submerged, add a little more broth or water and mix well. Cover the lid and cook for 30 mins on medium heat. Next, remove the lid and cook partially covered for 15 mins. Take two forks and shred the chicken while it's cooking in the pot and mix well to coat all pieces. If at this point there is still too much liquid to your liking, cook uncovered for another 10-15 mins to reduce the sauce.
Serve with warm tortillas, some dressed greens (a great balance to the bold chicken), queso fresco, and a side of pickle.