Thursday, May 8, 2014

Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos


In mid-April I started thinking tacos and Cinco de Mayo.  Mexican food screams warm weather to me and I have been dreaming about warm weather since about December...  If only I had visited the farmers' market on Monday I would have made these charred asparagus tacos for Cinco de Mayo but I didn't have time to visit the farmers' market before today.  Before today I hadn't been to the farmers market in 2 weeks so I was pretty excited when I went today and saw all of the fresh spring veggies.  Thank goodness for spring!  I was so sick of winter and so very excited for fresh asparagus.  When sugar snaps finally make it to the farmers' market I will do a giant happy dance.  Moving on.  My other Cinco de Mayo alternative was to make carnitas (Smitten Kitchen posted a slight variation on Homesick Texan's carnitas recipe and it looks super simple and tasty and Bon Appetit has a Beer-Braised Carnitas recipe that I find intriguing), but because Cinco de Mayo fell on a Monday this year it wasn't going to happen.  I don't know about you, but I am barely prepared enough on Monday to throw something together - roasting or braising pork shoulder for 2-4 hours (or cooking it all day a slow cooker) just isn't going to happen. 

So I guess you can fairly say that this recipe was my backup.  Alex occasionally orders chicken tacos but I don't think I ever do.  Then again, I do like chicken enchiladas so I guess it's not all that different.  But chicken generally seems like such a cop out to me.  I decided to try out this recipe anyway because what did I have to lose?  It sounded good and the pictures looked good.  And to be honest, I didn't have anything else planned.  I was looking for a little more depth of flavor - instead I mostly tasted the chipotles and adobo sauce.  And once I topped the chicken with tomatillo salsa I mostly tasted heat.  The tomatillo salsa added brightness and acidity, but I wish we had made an equally bright and spicy pineapple salsa or maybe a mango salsa instead.  I think a little sweetness would have been a good counterpoint to the chicken tinga tacos and some textural contrast would have been a really welcome addition.  With the salsa and the braised chicken you ended up with a mouthful of fairly wet and somewhat mushy taco.  Pineapple would provide some texture, but adding jicama to any salsa would work too.  If you do make these tacos, make sure to drain the chicken fairly well before putting it on the tortilla.  Same goes for the salsa.  Otherwise you end up with a pool of liquid in your taco, which leads to a rapidly disintegrating corn tortilla...

Recipe after the jump!



Smoky Chicken Tinga Tacos
Available at Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 cup medium diced white onion
2 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 large tomatillo, husk removed, rinsed, and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
One (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced or crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons roughly chopped chipotles plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from one (7-ounce) can
1/2 cup homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt

warm corn tortillas, tomatillo salsa (see recipe below), onion, cilantro, grated cotija cheese, and lime wedges for garnish

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken thighs skin-side down and cook until well browned, about 6 minutes. Flip thighs and continue to cook until other side is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, leaving fat in pan, and set aside.


Add onions and garlic to Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add tomatillo and cook until browned around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add oregano and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, chipotle, and adobo sauce and stir to combine. Remove from heat.


Transfer sauce to the jar of a blender and puree until smooth. Pour sauce back into pan, stir in chicken stock and bay leaf, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Nestle chicken thighs in sauce, reduce to a simmer, and cook until meat registers 165°F in thickest part of thigh on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer chicken to a plate and let sit until cool enough to handle. Remove sauce from heat and discard bay leaf.


Pull chicken meat into strips, discarding skin, any large pieces of fat, and bones. Stir chicken into sauce and cook over medium heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt to taste.

Spoon chicken into warm tortillas and top with tomatillo salsa, onion, cilantro, and cotija cheese. Serve with lime wedges.



Tomatillo Salsa
Adapted from Serious Eats


INGREDIENTS:
8 ounces husked, rinsed, and halved tomatillos
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1 jalape├▒o or 2 serrano chiles, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/3 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
Sugar
Salt

Place tomatillo halves on a lightly oiled grill pan, cut side down, over moderately high heat.  Grill until browned and they begin to soften.  Flip and continue to cook until completely softened.  Remove the tomatillos to the work bowl of a blender or food processor.  Let cool to room temperature.
 

Add garlic, chiles, cilantro, and 1/4 cup of water to the bowl and pulse until coarsely pureed. Pour salsa into a small dish and stir in the onion. Thin the salsa out with more water if necessary. Taste and add sugar to if the salsa is too tart. Season with salt to taste.

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