It’s 26°C in my apartment and, no joke, I am wearing a sweater. We’ve had a couple of cooler mornings recently, and although my first thought upon leaving home was It’s finally bearable out! it was quickly followed by Holy fuck, I’m actually freezing. Freezing in TWENTY-SIX-DEGREE HEAT. That, my friends, is how you know you’ve been living in an unairconditioned apartment during a months-long heat wave.
As I mentioned in my previous post, in an attempt to cope with the heat, I’d been making an ungodly amount of salad. But at some point, I remembered that there was this thing called ‘restaurants’ and that I could pay other people to cook hot food for me, and by the grace of God and UberEats, I could even have it delivered to my doorstep — which is how I became hooked on chicken tinga.
Chicken tinga is a Mexican dish where tender, shredded chicken gets simmered in this wonderful, rich sauce that’s tangy from the tomatillos, and smoky and spicy and ridiculously tasty because of the chipotle peppers in adobo. The resulting dish is one that’s surprisingly healthy because there’s almost no added fat to the recipe itself, but manages to be rich and filling, and tastes just as good in tacos as it does with eggs, in a burrito, (weirdly) on pasta, or –frankly — just straight from the leftovers container into your mouth.
It’s so good, in fact, that when I realized how much money I was wasting by repeatedly ordering this to go, I decided that I should just make some, myself. Serious Eats had a terrific recipe that cooked everything in a single pot, and tasted every bit as good as what I’d been ordering. And even though it was hot enough that I was literally dripping in sweat just from sitting still in the shade at my place, I nevertheless switched on the stovetop and simmered away with this recipe three times already this summer. It’s that good. It’s a great recipe if you’re hosting a crowd, too, because you can make it hours beforehand (or even the night before), refrigerate it, and just gently re-heat before serving. I wrote below that it serves six in that case, but twice, I honestly made it just for myself and enjoyed the leftovers all week long.
A wonderful, slightly spicy Mexican dinner that makes a great meal for a crowd. Adapted from Serious Eats.
1 small, whole chicken (about 1 kg)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola (or other neutral-flavoured) oil
2 medium (170g) tomatillos fresh or canned
2 medium (170g) ripe plum tomatoes
4 medium garlic cloves
1 small white onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons (30ml) cider vinegar
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 to 3 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, plus 1 Tablespoon sauce from can
2 teaspoons fish sauce
Any assortment of your favourite taco shells, avocado, pickled cabbage cilantro, green onions, crumbled feta cheese, hot sauce, etc.
First, we're going to slightly flatten this chicken (also called 'butterflying' or 'spatchcocking') by laying it breast-side down on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears (or a very sharp knife), remove the backbone (which you should freeze, along with the bones you'll get later, for stock!). Then flip the chicken over and flatten it with your hands. Season generously with salt and pepper.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium-high. Add chicken breast-side down and cook without flipping until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. (You'll want to have your ventilation hood on for this, and can always lower the heat if pot is smoking excessively or chicken starts to burn.) Flip chicken and cook on the other side for 2 minutes. Transfer to a large plate, and set aside.
To the pot you were cooking the chicken in, immediately add the tomatillos, tomatoes, and garlic. Cook, flipping occasionally, until blistered and browned in spots, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped onion and cook for a couple of minutes, until softened. 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 the mildest of simmers. 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, 18-25 minutes.
Once it's cooked, transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside.
Continue cooking the sauce at a hard simmer, stirring, for another 5 minutes or so, until it's reduced in volume by roughly half.
Add chipotle chilies and adobo sauce, remove and discard bay leaves, and blend the sauce using an immersion blender or by transferring to a countertop blender -- and be careful, it's hot! Sauce should be relatively smooth. If it seems to be a thinner than you'd like, continue cooking it down at a hard simmer, stirring often, until it reaches your desired consistency.
When chicken is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the the skin and bones (the latter of which you should freeze for stock!), and finely shred the meat with a couple of forks or your hands. Return the shredded chicken to the sauce. Add fish sauce and stir to combine.
Bring to a simmer for a couple more minutes, until the chicken is coated in sauce, and heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper (if necessary).
Serve with tortillas, on top of nachos, or just about anywhere you'd use saucy, shredded chicken. Garnish as you like (suggestions in the ingredients above).
Keeps for up to 3 days in a sealed container in the fridge.