Chicken Tinga Tacos

Last month, The Bitten Word posted about these tacos, and to be completely honest, it was the first time I’d ever heard of chicken tinga. The photos drew me in, enticing me to continue reading, and I’m so glad I did. We love Mexican food, especially tacos, and this version – braised, shredded chicken in a tomato and chipotle pepper sauce – sounded very promising. I love braised meats, so tender they fall off the bone, and though I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to spicy food, I was hopeful this would be more smoky, and wouldn’t have me running for a giant glass of water upon taking the first bite.

Chicken Tinga Tacos

I put these on the menu for a lazy Saturday because although the ingredient list is quite short, there is a bit of prep time involved. Most of it is hands-off, but still, not ideal for a weeknight. That said, the tinga can be made up to 3 days ahead, so if you do so on the weekend, this becomes a great weeknight option. I actually enjoyed the flavor of the tinga even more on the 2nd day, so I highly recommend going the make-ahead route. Also, the recipe makes a ton so unless you’re feeding a lot of people, you’ll have enough leftovers for several days. I think I ate these for dinner two nights in a row plus lunch a few days before I grew sick of them :) As I’d hoped, the tinga was definitely more smoky than spicy, but if you wanted extra heat you could add another chipotle or two. Shane enjoyed this meal too, though it was probably less fun for him since he doesn’t like any of the traditional taco garnishes.

A couple notes: The recipe calls for Cotija cheese, which I was unable to find anywhere. I did some Googling and Parmesan was recommended as a substitute several places so that’s what we wound up using. Also, skinless, bone-in chicken thighs are specified, but I bought skin-on, bone-in and simply removed the skin myself.

Chicken Tinga Tacos
from Food and Wine (via The Bitten Word)

{Note: You can make the tinga up to 3 days ahead. Refrigerate until ready to use then reheat gently.}

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 pounds trimmed, skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
One 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2 canned chipotles in adobo, coarsely chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
24 corn tortillas
2 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled
Sliced scallions and chopped cilantro (or parsley), for garnish

Set a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons of the oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the pan and brown on both sides, about 12 minutes total. Transfer the chicken to a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside. Pour off the fat in the skillet.

Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes (along with their juices), the chipotles and the chicken broth. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced a bit, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Let the sauce cool slightly, then transfer to your food processor and pulse until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Bake (uncovered) until the meat is tender and the sauce is very thick, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, either wrap the tortillas in foil and warm them in the oven for about 10 minutes, or warm them over the burner of a gas stove then stack them in a kitchen towel (I did the latter, hence the char on the tortillas).

Once cooked, take the chicken off the bones and shred, then return to the sauce. Place about 3 tablespoons of chicken on each tortilla, then sprinkle with the cheese and garnish with scallions and cilantro.

Makes about 24 tacos