Friday, April 29, 2016

chicken tinga.

Cinqo de Mayo more then any other holiday makes me nostalgic for college.   In college we looked for any excuse to celebrate and a holiday involving drinking copious amounts of Coronas' with Lime and wearing sombreros was about the best you could get.   I'd give anything for a cooler full of cold beers and a dance party with my girlfriends next Wednesday.   

And nachos!  The most popular bar on Main Street (home to Saturday night Eighties night) served a giant plate of nachos and cheap pitchers of beer.  As a poor college kid there was nothing better that that.  On Cinqo de Mayo the line to get into this place was so long but the promise of nachos made the wait worth it.   

But this monstrous plate of nachos was not well-designed.   Oh no, it was poorly executed with a a copious amount of chips on the bottom and an assortment of toppings strewn haphazardly over the top.  Now, almost 10 years later (god I feel old), I see the error in their ways.  A plate of nachos should be so well-designed that a little bit of everything is incorporated into each and every bite.  It's all about the combinations of flavors which is why it's important to start with flavorful ingredients.

Chicken tinga (a fancy name for spicy Mexican shredded chicken) is the best nacho base.  Because it's chicken nestled in spicy tomato sauce you basically get your protein and your salsa in a single dish.  From there it's up to you.  I like homemade black beans, cheese (duh), pickled jalapenos, and a tomatillo/avocado salsa.   Sour cream optional on the side.    The key is freshly fried tortilla chips (go big or go home) and laying all of the tortilla chips onto your baking sheet so you can top each chip with a little of bit of your ingredients (as demonstrated below) followed by a generous layer of cheese.   Sure it's more work, but the resulting nachos are awesome.   Best served with a cold beer (but you already knew that didn't you?).   

Chicken Tinga (Spicy Mexican Shredded Chicken)
Recipe adapted (slightly) from Serious Eats 

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)
10 ounces ripe plum tomatoes or diced can tomatoes (270g)
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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