Chicken Tinga Tacos (Mexico)

I know I promised you huaraches. I even described them in the episode. But can I be honest? Yes? I like to keep these recipes to things you can do on a weeknight: delicious and authentic, yet not overly complicated. Well… huaraches were getting too complicated.

So instead, I give you a very simple and delicious dish with its roots in Puebla, a city between Mexico City and the Gulf Coast, where the Mexicans defeated a French Army in 1861 on May 5, forever remembered as Cinco de Mayo.

 

Cinco de Mayo is NOT a significant holiday in Mexico, which will surprise the many Americans who celebrate with tacos, margaritas, and more margaritas. It’s big in Puebla, but how it became big in the US is simply a marketing thing. The weather is usually nice on May 5, and early May lacked a good alcohol-driven holiday. Mexican Independence Day (September 15) is too close to Labor Day and would be less festive, I guess.

Anyway, Puebla is famous for its mole above all else, which I’ll get to eventually, because mole poblano is one of the world’s best dishes, bar none. For now, though, I introduce the tinga: shredded meat, combined with chipotle peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes and spices. Traditionally, it’s served on tostadas, crispy fried tortillas.

 

This recipe, from Rick Bayless’ Everyday Mexican is adapted for a slow-cooker, so it’s great for a weekday meal. This is one of my absolute go-to recipes. Set it up in the morning, and come home with the house smelling like absolute heaven. 

 

It’s not completely traditional. It’s got potatoes, which are not typical but which make for a nice additional filler. The slow cooker doesn’t allow for browning, hence the Worcestershire sauce to bring in umami.

 

I prefer tinga as a taco filling rather than as a tostada topper. It’s just less greasy that way.

 

I will vouch all day for this recipe. ¡Feliz cinco de mayo!

 

Serves 4

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium (about 500g/1 lb) red or gold-skinned potatoes, each cut into 6 wedges

  • 1.5 kg / 3 lbs chicken thighs (skin removed) - you can substitute 1 kg / 2 lbs of boneless thighs or (if you HAVE to) breasts

  • 28 oz canned diced tomatoes, drained (fire-roasted, if possible) - it’s May, so good tomatoes aren’t in season yet

  • 4 oz fresh Mexican chorizo (NOT spanish), crumbled

  • 1 white onion, sliced

  • 2 or 3 canned chipotle chiles, chopped, with 1 tablespoon of their adobo canning liquid

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme

  • 2 tsp salt

  • Corn tortillas - 12, at least, but probably more

 

STEPS

  1. Spread the potato wedges on the bottom of the slow cooker. Top with the chicken.

  2. Sprinkle the chorizo on top of the chicken. Put the onion slices on top of that.

  3. In a large separate bowl, combine the chipotles, adobo, tomatoes, Worcestershire, thyme, and salt.

  4. Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken and chorizo in the slow cooker.

  5. Put the lid on the slow cooker and set to slow-cook on high for 6 hours - most slow cookers can keep the dish warm for an additional four.

  6. Once complete, remove the solids into a separate dish and discard the bones, if any. Ladle the remaining juices into a saucepan and boil over high heat to reduce to about 1 cup.

  7. Shred the chicken with a fork. Pour the sauce over the meat mixture.

  8. Serve with corn tortillas.

 

Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless’ Everyday Mexican, a cookbook that I have used more than all my other cookbooks combined. Every recipe is fantastic.

Rick Bayless is a Chicago-based chef, who has made a career of bringing out the best in regional Mexican cuisine. You may have seen his show "Mexico: One Plate at a Time" on your public television station.  I appreciate that he is white and that calls for cultural appropriation reign down upon him. But he has a passionate love for Mexico which shines through.  Generations of young Mexican chefs have passed through his kitchen, to start their own successful restaurants. Every year, he shuts down his restaurants to take the entire staff, from busboys to sous-chefs to a different state in Mexico, to sample the cuisine, explore the markets, appreciate the local flavors.  I believe there is a massive difference between appropriating culture (like bars doing Cinco de Mayo) and showing honor and respect.  If you want cultural appropriation, may I introduce you to hipster white dudes selling "Nashville Hot Chicken"?  OK, soapbox over.  Try this recipe and enjoy it.

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