Spicy, smoky, and easy chicken tinga. [Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt]
Though tinga is traditionally flavored with chorizo, this quick and easy version still packs in the flavor, without forcing you to seek out special ingredients. The chicken is gently poached in broth, then shredded and tossed with a puréed sauce for extra-juicy texture and flavor.
Why It Works
- Using skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts produces plenty of flavor while maintaining a juicy, shreddable texture.
- Using a thermometer to cook the chicken to 145°F ensures that it stays juicy even after shredding and reheating.
- Saving the chipotle chilies until the end helps them retain their smoky flavor.
- 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 1 1/4 pounds; 550g)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) lard or vegetable oil
- 6 ounces tomatillos, peeled (170g; about 2 medium)
- 6 ounces ripe plum tomatoes (170g; about 2 medium)
- 4 medium garlic cloves
- 1 small white onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) cider vinegar
- 2 cups (475ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock (or water)
- 2 to 3 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon (15ml) sauce from can
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) Asian fish sauce
Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add chicken skin side down and cook, without moving, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. (Lower heat if pot is smoking excessively or chicken starts to burn.) Flip chicken and cook on second side for 2 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and immediately add tomatillos, tomatoes, and garlic to pot. Cook, flipping occasionally, until blistered and browned in spots, about 5 minutes.
Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add oregano and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add vinegar and stock. Return chicken to pot, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook, turning chicken occasionally, until chicken registers 145°F when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the center of the thickest part, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl and set aside. Continue cooking the sauce at a hard simmer, stirring, until reduced to about half its original volume, about 5 minutes longer.
Add chipotle chilies and adobo, remove and discard bay leaves, and blend the sauce using an immersion blender or by transferring to a countertop blender. Sauce should be relatively smooth, with a few small chunks. When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and finely shred the meat. Return it to the sauce. Add fish sauce and stir to combine.
Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until sauce thickens and coats chicken. It should be very moist but not soupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper (if necessary). Chicken tinga can be served in tacos; stuffed into enchiladas or burritos; on top of nachos, tostadas, and sopes; or on its own.
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