Tinga de Pollo y Papas (Smoky Shredded Chicken and Pototoes with Roasted Tomatoes)

Recipe Notes: This classic blend of Central Mexican (especially Pueblan) flavors is popular with just about everyone. We use a dish like this for lots of parties at the restaurant when we don't know the tastes -- or the adventurousness -- of the guests. The smoky, slightly spicy tomatoes have a broad appeal: the potatoes, onions and chicken comfort even the most timid, while the fresh cheese and avocado garnish place this relaxed dish squarely in the Mexican kitchen. You can turn tinga into a piece-of-meat entree simply by leaving the chicken thighs whole or replacing them with chicken breasts (breast will take less time to cook), and, for more sauciness, doubling the sauce.

This dish is good buffet fare (the recipe triples or quadruples easily, though you probably will have to work in batches); it requires no knives for your guests. For an informal meal, serve it with big green salad and lots of hot tortillas for making tacos.

Serves 4 as a light main dish (with about 4 cups of finished tinga).


INGREDIENTS:
4 medium (1 1/2 pounds total) chicken thighs, skin removed
4 medium boiling potatoes (like the red-skin ones)
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
Salt, about 3/4 teaspoon
1/3 Cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or pressed, salted farmer's cheese
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 3/8-inch dice
1 recipe Essentlal Quick-Cooked Tomato Chipotle Sauce

DIRECTIONS:

  1. The chicken and potatoes -- Nestle the skinless thighs into the sauce, cover, and set over medium-low heat. Cook for about 25 minutes, until the meat is thoroughly tender. Remove the chicken to a plate, leaving as much sauce as possible in the pan. Cool, then pull the meat from the bones in large shreds; there will be about 2 cups.
  2. With a food processor or hand grater, coarsely shred the potatoes. Squeeze between your hands to remove as much water as possible.
  3. Finishing the dish -- Heat the remaining I tablespoon of the oil over medium-high in a large (10- to 12-inch) nonstick or well-seasoned skillet. Add the onion and potatoes and cook, stirring and scraping up any sticking bits, until well browned, about 15 minutes. Scrape in the sauce and oregano, bring to a boil, stir in the chicken, and heat through, about 2 minutes.
  4. Taste and season with salt.
  5. Scoop the mixture into a warm, deep, decorative serving dish. Sprinkle with cheese, strew with avocado and serve without hesitation.

Advance Preparation: The tinga can be finished a day ahead, cover and refrigerate. Warm in a 400-degree oven, covered with foil, garnish with avocado and cheese, and serve.

Shortcuts: A drained 15-ounce can of tomatoes can replace the roasted fresh ones.

Variations and Improvisations Without the potatoes, this is a very common taco, torta and tostada filling (or topping) in Central Mexico (you can even omit the garnishes). I love the texture the potatoes give.
-- A generous pound of pork shoulder (cubed, simmered in salted water until tender, then shredded) can replace the chicken as can shredded cooked duck legs (a personal favorite).
-- If you want the dish spicier, garnish with slices of canned chipotles.


Recipe Source: Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen

Nutritional information per serving (if you make 4 servings) - includes the sauce(per Mastercook): 326 Calories; 18g Fat (48.8% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 61mg Cholesterol; 534mg Sodium.

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