Chicken in Chipotle + Tomato Salsa

Tinga de Pollo is a classic dish primarily from central Mexico made with shredded chicken, beef or pork and served in a tomato, onion and chipotle sauce.  Tinga is commonly found in street stands and served as the filling for quesadillas and tacos or on tostadas.  This dish is a crowd pleaser and is also a staple at baby showers, baptisms, among other family events and parties.

According to the Encyclopedia of Mexican Gastronomy by Ricard Muñoz Zurita tinga is a dish from the central state of Puebla with the first written documentation of the recipe appearing in the cookbook La Cocinera Poblana, first published in 1881.  There are many versions of the recipe depending on the region and the person that prepares it and it appears that almost everyone has a family member that supposedly prepares the best tinga.  The recipe below is the result of numerous discussions with friends, cooks and street vendors as well as my own personal research involving the consumption lots of quesadillas de tinga around Mexico City.

One of the most important things about this dish, for me is the texture.  The chicken should be very, very, very finely shredded.  I cannot explain why, but I swear that tinga tastes better when the chicken is shredded very thinly rather than in thicker strips.   In this recipe I call for 3 onions, which may seem like a lot relative to the quantity of chicken, but the sweetness of the caramelized onions is key to this dish.  Finally, the bay leaves and all spice berries bring together the flavors of all the ingredients adding a very slight spiciness to the dish


Chicken:

  • ½ chicken breast, bone in
  • 2 liters of water
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small onion cut into quarters
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

In a medium sized pot add the water, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, chicken and bay leaves and bring to a boil.  When boiling lower the heat, cover with a lid and let cook for about 35 minutes or until the chicken breast is cooked.  Remove the chicken and shred the chicken very, very finely.  For me, part of what makes this dish good is the texture so don´t get impatient with this part and shred the chicken well!!!

Tinga:

  • 3 medium sized onions sliced very, very very thinly
  • 5 tomatoes
  • 1 chile chipotle in adobo
  • 2 allspice berries
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 cup or more of chicken broth
  • salt
  • oil

In a broiler or on a comal roast the tomatoes until blackened.   Blend the roasted tomatoes, the chipotle and ½ cup of chicken broth and set aside.  In a pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil and sauté the onions until browned and transparent.  Add the tomato/chipotle sauce and as its cooking add salt, the bay leaves and all spice berries.  When heated add the shredded chicken, stir, check for salt and add more chicken broth if necessary. Serve with hot tortillas and sliced avocados or on tostadas.

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