Milk Street Weeknight Mexican (Ep 410)
Chicken Tinga (Tinga Poblana de Pollo)
Start to finish (40 minutes active)
Tinga poblana de pollo is a stewy dish of shredded chicken in a light, fresh tomato sauce that’s spicy and smoky with chipotle chilies. It’s an excellent filling for tacos or topping for tostadas. For our version of chicken tinga, based on the recipe we learned in Mexico, we poach chicken breasts, shred the meat into bite-size pieces, then add the chicken to the tomato-chipotle sauce that has been simmered separately. Mexican oregano, which has notes of citrus and earth, is more closely related to verbena than to Mediterranean oregano, which is in the mint family. Many supermarkets sell Mexican oregano; if it’s not shelved with the jarred herbs and spice, check the international aisle or where dried Mexican chilies are sold. If you can’t find it, substitute an equal amount of dried marjoram.
Don’t allow the chicken breasts to boil in the poaching liquid, and make sure to remove them promptly when cooked through. White meat is lean and delicate and becomes dry and tough if boiled vigorously or cooked past 160°F.
- 1½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
- 1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced, divided
- 6 medium garlic cloves, minced, divided
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (see note)
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped, stems and leaves reserved separately
- 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon packed light brown sugar
In a large saucepan, combine 7 cups water, the chicken, a quarter of the onion, half the garlic, the carrots, bay and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high then reduce to low, cover and cook at a bare simmer. Cook until the chicken is opaque throughout and the thickest part registers 160°F, 20 to 30 minutes; flip the breasts once about halfway through.
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large plate and and set aside to cool. Strain enough of the cooking liquid through a fine mesh strainer to yield 1 cup; discard the remainder. Using 2 forks or your hands, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces, discarding the skin and bones.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the remaining onion, the remaining garlic and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring, until the onion has wilted, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the oregano, cumin and cilantro stems, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chipotle chilies and adobo sauce, tomatoes and sugar. Increase to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes begin to release their liquid, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved cooking liquid, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, until slightly thickened and clings to the skillet, 5 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the shredded chicken, reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce clings to the meat, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cilantro leaves.
Egg-Stuffed Mexican Meatballs with Salsa Roja
Start to finish: Start to finish: 50 minutes | Servings: 4
These meatballs, or albóndigas, hide a sliver of hard-cooked egg at the center, like the ones we were taught to make in Mexico. For best flavor and texture, we use a combination of ground beef and pork. The tomato-onion-garlic puree that becomes the salsa roja doubles as a seasoning for the meat mixture. As you shape the meatballs, if you find the mixture is to be too tacky for easy handling, moisten your hands with water.
These meatballs typically are garnished with crumbled chicharrón (fried pork rinds); we’ve made them optional but they are delicious served this way. Serve with rice and/or warm tortillas.
Don’t allow sauce to come to a full boil when cooking the meatballs, or they will end up dry and tough. Gentle simmering will keep their texture tender and light.
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 1 pound plum tomatoes, whole
- ½ medium white onion, halved
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 or 2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, plus the sauce clinging to them
- 1½ teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup (¾ ounce) panko breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 12 ounces 85 percent lean ground beef
- 12 ounces ground pork
- 3 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled, each cut into 4 wedges
- Fresh cilantro, to serve
- Chicharrón, crumbled, to serve (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the tomatoes, onion and garlic, then cook, occasionally turning the vegetables, until deeply charred in spots, about 5 minutes; if the garlic is done before the tomatoes and onion, remove the cloves from the skillet.
Add the charred vegetables to a blender along with the chipotle chilies, chili powder, oregano and 1 teaspoon salt; set the skillet aside. Blend until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute, scraping the blender jar as needed. Measure ⅓ cup of the puree into a medium bowl, mix in the panko and let stand until fully softened, about 5 minutes. Pour the remaining puree into the reserved skillet and set aside.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. To the panko mixture, add the egg yolk, both ground meats, 1½ teaspoons salt and
¾ teaspoon pepper. Using your hands, mix until homogenous. Divide into 12 portions (about ¼ cup each) and place on the prepared baking sheet. One portion at a time, in the palm of your hand, flatten into a 3- to 4-inch disk. Place a wedge of hard-cooked egg in the center, then enclose meat around the egg and roll between your palms to form a smooth ball. Set the meatball on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate uncovered for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, set the skillet over medium and bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and darkened, about 10 minutes. Place the meatballs in the skillet, then cover and cook at a gentle simmer until the centers reach 160°F, 15 to 20 minutes; turn the meatballs once about halfway through. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and chicharrón (if using).
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