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.
I had trouble “browning” skinless chicken in the “liberal” amount of oil called for in recipe, so I wound up scooping out some of the oil, but still “deep brown” was not happening – anybody have this issue?
Pat the chicken dry, don’t overcrowd the pan- and wait to stir or move the chicken until it crisps up/ browns on the bottom-.
Was your chicken wet? If the exterior was wet, it’s difficult to achieve browning. Also, the temperature in the pan must be high enough at the beginning of the sauté to create the browning.