Though pork tinga is the original (and it’s typically served as a main dish), chicken tinga has become a street vendor taquero staple beyond its homeland of Puebla. What’s not to love: chicken with roasted tomato, caramelized onion and smoky chipotle. In the best places, it’s garnished with avocado and fresco cheese, making it a crowd-pleasing combination of flavor and texture. While it’s easiest to make this tinga with canned chipotle, I encourage you to try it with the sweet pickled moritas/chipotles for the most dynamic flavor. Plus, a stash of those sweet-sour chiles in the refrigerator will become your secret flavor weapon for other dishes.
2ouncespiloncillo (unrefined sugar) OR a generous ¼ cup dark brown sugar
1/2cupvinegar (a fruit one like apple cider vinegar is typical in Mexico), plus more if needed
2ounces(18 to 20 pieces) dried morita/chipotle colorado chiles, stemmed
3garliccloves, peeled and halved
For the tinga:
Vegetableorolive oil to coat the pan
1largewhite onion, sliced a little less than ½ thick
1poundboneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into half-inch pieces
3garliccloves, peeled and finely chopped
One15-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), lightly drained
3to4 pickled morita/chipotle chiles, thinly sliced, plus some of their pickling liquid OR 3 to 4 canned chilpotle chiles en adobo, thinly sliced
About1teaspoon Mexican oregano
Alittleadditional vinegar, if you think the dish needs it
About3/4cup (about 3 ounces) Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like farmers cheese, mild feta or fresh goat cheese
Ahandfulof cilantro leaves for garnish
Make the pickled moritas. In a small saucepan, combine the piloncillo (or brown sugar), vinegar and ½ cup water. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir until the piloncillo dissolves. Add the chiles, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt, then simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and cool, weighting the chiles to ensure even hydration. (If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the chiles, add a little additional vinegar and water in equal portions.) After a couple of hours, the chiles are ready to use. They will keep for months refrigerated in a sealed container.
Brown the chicken. Set a very large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat and film the bottom liberally with oil. When hot add the onion. Stir until it softens and begins to brown, about 4 minutes, then scatter the chicken in the pan in a single layer. Nestle it down to the bottom of the pan so that it will brown. Cook until everything is richly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook a minute longer.
Finish the dish. In a blender or food processor, blend the tomatoes and their juice to a very coarse puree. Add to the browned chicken in the skillet, along with the chiles and oregano. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chicken is tender and the mixture is thick, about 4 minutes. Taste and season with salt, about 1 teaspoon, and vinegar, if you would like it a little more tangy.
Serve. Serve your chicken tinga on warm tortillas with a slice of avocado, a sprinkling of fresh cheese (queso fresco) and leaves of cilantro.