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Chicken Tinga Tacos: A Mexican Meal That's Not Just for Tuesdays 

click to enlarge Chicken Tinga Tacos - ANDY BRUMBAUGH
  • andy brumbaugh
  • Chicken Tinga Tacos

When summer arrives, I'm always looking to treat my family to fun food that doesn't take a lot of time to prepare, since we'd rather spend our time hiking and boating. Mexican food is a crowd pleaser in my house. My daughter, especially, is a big believer in tacos on Tuesday, or, really, any day of the week. If you are looking for a twist on this Mexican staple, I suggest trying a smoky, spicy tinga sauce.

Originally from the Mexican state of Puebla — the same region where the famously complicated mole sauce comes from — tinga sauce is much simpler. It's made with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, which can be found canned in most grocery stores. Chipotles are dried, smoked jalapeño peppers; the adobo sauce they are packed in is a slightly sweet, tangy red sauce. If you want a milder dish, use fewer of the canned chipotle peppers and all of the adobo sauce.

The chipotle in adobo, combined with tomatoes, onion, cumin and Mexican oregano, which has a more grassy, citrusy flavor than the more common Mediterranean oregano, make the tinga sauce really special. I ordered Mexican oregano online at Penzeys Spices, but if you have trouble finding it, sub in marjoram or a smaller amount of Mediterranean oregano.

I used chicken in this recipe, but you can also use pork, beef or even jackfruit as a vegan alternative. The key is to shred your meat (or substitute meat). One of my favorite tips for shredding cooked chicken is to use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. It takes almost no time, and turns what could be a tedious task into a cinch.

I served the chicken tinga on warmed corn tortillas, topped with crumbled cotija cheese (which is like a Mexican feta, very mild and crumbly), sliced red onion and cilantro, for those who like it. As sides, we had a Mexican street corn-inspired salad and guacamole. If you have leftover meat, try using it as a filling for burritos or taquitos, as a nacho topping, or in sandwiches. It really packs a delightful, and unexpected, punch of flavor.

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 3 small tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 can (7.5 ounces) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • salt to taste

To serve:

  • corn tortillas
  • sliced red onion
  • crumbled cotija cheese
  • cilantro

Directions:

  1. Put chicken in a large saucepan, along with onion, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns. Add just enough water to cover the chicken, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove chicken from the cooking liquid and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid, reserving the onions and garlic, along with 1 cup of the liquid.
  2. To make the sauce, combine the reserved cooking liquid, the reserved onion and garlic, tomatoes, cumin, oregano and chipotle peppers in adobo in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add salt to taste.
  3. Shred the chicken by putting it in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on low until completely shredded. Alternatively, shred the chicken with two forks.
  4. Combine the chicken and tinga sauce, and serve on top of warmed corn tortillas, topped with sliced red onion, crumbled cotija cheese and cilantro. Refrigerate or freeze leftover meat for future meals.

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