On my trip to California, I was reminded about how delicious Mexican food can be. I have definitely not been able to find anything even close here in Ottawa. And I love Mexican food. A lot. When I came home, I made it my mission to make some delicious tacos at home, to tide me over until I can find a good place here in Ottawa. I had saved this particular recipe in my paper recipe file from back in December, so I dug it out of the file to try for my first serious taco attempt. The result? These chicken tinga tacos are the best tacos that I have ever had. The chicken alone is smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet. It would be great served in any dish -- over rice, in a soup, etc. -- and it will be put into heavy rotation in my kitchen. In fact, the chicken is so good that you don't really need to dress it up very much, just a tiny bit of crumbled feta (use Cotija, if you can find it though) and some avocado is all you really need. The original recipe calls for baking the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes, but with the hot weather we've been having, I couldn't imagine turning the oven on for that long. I made mine on the stove, but you could also make the chicken in a slow cooker (the directions below reflect the method that I used).
Chicken Tinga TacosSlightly adapted from Food & Wine, December 2011
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (use thighs if you prefer)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup beer
One 28-ounce can low-sodium diced tomatoes
2 canned chipotles in adobo, coarsely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
24 corn tortillas (I used pre-made tostadas, since I can never find corn tortillas here)
2 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled (I used feta)
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper, add it to the Dutch oven and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Pour off the fat in the Dutch oven.
Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large Dutch oven along with the onion. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned and softened, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the beer and stir, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. After about a minute, add the tomatoes and their juices, the chipotles and the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and slightly reduced, 20 minutes.
Let the sauce cool slightly. Puree until smooth using an immersion blender and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the sauce. Cover the Dutch oven and cook the chicken over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, until the meat is tender and the sauce is very thick and darkened around the edges.
Remove the chicken from the sauce and shred the meat; discard the bones. Return the chicken meat to the sauce. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of chicken onto each tortilla and sprinkle with the crumbled cheese. Garnish the chicken tacos with the scallions and chopped cilantro and serve hot.