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Tinga de Pollo – Your New Favorite Mexican Recipe – Gastronomic SLC

Carnitas this, al pastor, which sometimes I lament over humble things, a less seen protein. For my money, it’s far too often overlooked. I was reminded of this fact while dining at Dos Olas recently (review forthcoming) when chef Carlos Seguras wheeled out his mother’s version of the dish. The dish can essentially be summed up as chicken simmered in chipotle – and it’s infinitely forgiving; a pot on the stove bubbling away, poke and prod it to your own taste. Segura’s version uses sweet corn and roasted peppers—here’s my take—a dish I’ve enjoyed for years.

ingredients

  • 2 kg chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

  • 10 oz can chopped tomato (eg Rotel)

  • 2 teaspoons garlic, crushed

  • 1 tablespoon ground oregano

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 garlic finely chopped

  • 1 lime, squeezed

  • 2 green peppers

  • 2 chipotle chilies and adobo sauce

  • Cilantro

  • Chicken fund

  • Vegetable oil

  • Corn tortillas and toppings for serving

Instructions

  1. Finely chop the white onion and fry it over medium heat with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil
  2. When the onion has softened, add whole chicken thighs
  3. Add garlic, oregano and spices
  4. Stir well and cook for two minutes so that everything is nicely coated
  5. Add canned tomatoes
  6. Stir well and add chicken stock until everything is almost covered with liquid
  7. Cover with a lid and let it simmer on low heat.
  8. Stir occasionally to make sure there is plenty of liquid and that nothing sticks to the pan
  9. While the tinga is cooking, fry your favorite green peppers in the oven or deep fryer. I like green peppers or poblanos, double up if you use them.
  10. After approx. After 90 minutes, the chicken begins to break down into a form that can be easily shredded
  11. Add juice from one lime, roasted and chopped green pepper and a handful of chopped coriander
  12. Cook covered until the tinga is reduced to the preferred consistency
  13. Serve in corn tortillas with pico de gallo and favorite toppings

Tinga de Pollo – what you need to know

Chicken Tinga
Chicken Tinga Tacos
Chicken Tinga Tacos

Chicken thighs

Chicken thighs are much preferable to chicken breasts. If you’re sensitive, don’t be. Once the dish is cooked and broken down, the only difference you will notice is impeccably tender and juicy chicken.

Most grocery stores offer chicken thighs boned and skin removed; above I scored some from Smith’s for less than five bucks a pound. I don’t bother cutting off the excess fat – the chicken simmers until all the fat is rendered. I literally throw them from package to pan and cook for 90+ minutes, it’s that easy. If you really must use chicken breast, go ahead, but you will miss so much flavor.

Canned Chipotles

I use the Embasa brand, sometimes La Costena – both can be easily found in any Utah general grocery store. Both brands come in a hefty seven-ounce can, countless chipotles swimming in thick, mahogany-colored adobo sauce.

I won’t lie, even just two chipotles and a tablespoon or two of adobo sauce makes for a tingly bowl; don’t worry, once you add the shredded chicken to the tortillas with toppings, things will soften. Spice lovers – I’ve made this dish with a full can of chipotles thrown in before – it’s exciting life-affirming stuff.

Top Tip: You’ll probably want some chipotles and adobo left over. Once you’ve opened your chipotles, you can transfer them to a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few weeks. I use the leftover chili to make chipotle mayo. Take a chopped chipotle and add to lots of mayo, with a teaspoon of crushed garlic and a squeeze of fresh lime. One bite and you’ll eat it on everything. Hat tip to chef Matt Lake of the much-missed Alamexo for that one.

Roasted pepper

Chef Carlos Segura at Dos Olas taught me this trick. He uses roasted poblano peppers to add an extra touch of smoky nuance to the dish. They can be hit and miss to find in Utah stores, but the Mexican grocery stores like Rancho Markets will always have them.

I tried using green peppers in my latest dish and the result was the same, adding some smoke, sweetness and grassiness. By my reckoning, you should only add these towards the end of the dish, the last 15-20 minutes or so; if you cooked them too long, they would fall apart and the smoky notes would be lost in the spicy chipotle.

To make the roasted peppers, I first remove the inner core and seeds, then throw them in the air fryer (no oil, no salt) on high for 15-20 minutes. The result is a beautifully charred skin that really adds an extra layer of flavor.

Canned tomatoes

You can use fresh tomatoes if you want, but I don’t think you’ll get the bang for your buck that you would on a BLT. I will save your prized maters for dishes where you want the tomato to shine as the star. The chipotle adds a strong flavor and dominates this dish. I like to use Rotel brand canned tomatoes. There are a few different flavors with roasted tomatoes, lime and chilli. They are all fine and all add an extra dimension.

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I think corn tortillas are a must here (another tip from Segura). They add sweetness along with the tomatoes and onions, which balance out the spicy chipotle. They also add that textural je ne sais quoi that flour tortillas never deliver. Other toppings I like are pico de gallo (Rico or Harmon’s brand if I’m feeling lazy), some finely chopped raw garlic, cilantro, and a dollop of cilantro lime ranch! I know, I know, but I love it. Check out the St George-based Wild Coyote brand, which you can find in most major Utah grocery stores.

Ice cream baby

Tinga freezes excellently. I let the finished product cool on the counter, then refrigerate covered overnight. The next day, I portion the chicken I don’t intend to use right away into small freezer containers. Then when I’m stuck for inspiration to eat, I can just reach into the freezer and pop a tub in the microwave to defrost. The chicken tastes just as good, just reheat it in the pan for a few minutes. I stuff it into burritos with black beans or rice, on burgers or hot dogs to add pizzaz, or on loaded fries or tots for a spicy finish.

Kitchen essentials

Finally, you might want to take a look at our concise list of essentials for any home cook. These are all products I personally use and recommend in a heartbeat. Don’t worry, the list is small, I hate clutter too.

Twenty minute air-roasted peppers of Tonga de pollo
Twenty minute air-roasted tinga de pollo peppers
Twenty minute air-roasted peppers chopped for Tinga de pollo
Twenty minute air-roasted peppers chopped for Tinga de pollo

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