Mexican chicken tinga made for ‘monsters’

You could say that Patricia Jinich’s recipe for chicken tinga is famous. It has, after all, been featured on the “Today” show, as well as on Jinich’s own PBS show, “Pati’s Mexican Table.” But that’s not why Jinich loves the recipe.

She loves it because her “monsters” love it. “Monsters” is how Jinich affectionately refers to her three sons, Alan, 13, Sami, 11, and Julian, 6. Sami and Juju, as Julian is called, deigned to appear in this video with her to talk about one of their favorite dishes. (Alan, being a teen-ager, had better things to do.)

Chicken tinga, originally from the state of Puebla, in east-central Mexico, is popular all over the country. It’s one of those accommodating dishes, Jinich says, that can be made mild or spicy, saucy or not so saucy, and served any number of ways—with beans and rice, on a tortilla or in a quesadilla. This makes it easy to please all of her boys’ palates, including that of her husband, Daniel.

Cooking is Jinich’s first love after her husband and sons.  She grew up in Mexico City in a family of “accomplished cooks and food maniacs,” as she puts it. Each week she shares her knowledge of and passion for the food of her native country with thousands of  her American fans. But cooking wasn’t always her career. Before her professional cooking days, Jinich was—of all things—a political analyst, with a master’s degree in Latin American studies from Georgetown University.

But the kitchen kept calling, Jinich says. While living in Texas, she had a brief stint teaching Mexican cooking to friends and neighbors and working as a production assistant on a PBS series called “New Tastes from Texas.”

When the family moved to Washington, D.C., Jinich set aside her brief foray into cooking and returned to the world of political analysis — until the Mexican Cultural Institute came calling. In 2007 she began teaching a program called “Mexican Table,” hosting cooking demonstrations and sharing her love of Mexico’s diverse cuisine and cultures. Her own PBS series debuted in 2011.

Here’s Jinich and sons Sami and Julian talking about their favorite ways to enjoy chicken tinga.

Makes 6 servings

Chicken Tinga

This simple recipe of shredded cooked chicken bathed in a spicy tomato-tomatillo sauce is a favorite of Pati Jinich’s three boys. Jinich, the host of PBS' "Pati's Mexican Table," says it's easy to make, and can be served any number of ways. She recommends making a double batch and using leftovers as a filling for quesadillas or a topping for tostadas. She also offers this time-saving tip: Don’t bother peeling or coring the tomatoes and tomatillos. Simply drop them whole into a pot of simmering water, then cool slightly and transfer them to the blender. This recipe is from Jinich's new book, "Pati's Mexican Table" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013).

Ingredients

  • 8 ripe Roma tomatoes (about 2 pounds), rinsed
  • 2 to 3 tomatillos (about 1/4 pound), husks removed, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, more or less to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sauce from chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 1 whole chipotle chile in adobo, chopped (optional)
  • 5 cups cooked shredded chicken (or rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Instructions

Place the tomatoes and tomatillos in a medium 3-quart saucepan and cover with water. Set the saucepan over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes and tomatillos are thoroughly cooked and mushy, but not coming apart. Their color will change from bright to dull. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a blender or food processor. Cool slightly and then process until smooth.

Heat the oil in a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant and begins to lightly brown, less than a minute.

Carefully pour the pureed tomato-tomatillo sauce into the skillet. It will steam and bubble; that’s ok! Stir in the oregano, marjoram, thyme, salt, and black pepper. Add the adobo sauce and the chipotle chile if using (you can add more sauce and chiles near the end if you decide you want more heat). Continue to simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it deepens in color, becoming a darker and earthier red, and is no longer soupy, 10 to 12 minutes. You may want to partially cover the skillet with a lid as it cooks, as the sauce will spatter.

Add the chicken and the chicken broth to the sauce and toss over the heat until it’s well mixed. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken has absorbed almost all of the sauce and is moist but not runny, 6 to 8 minutes more. Serve hot.

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6 Responses to Mexican chicken tinga made for ‘monsters’

  1. Avatar of Andrew Marin
    Andrew Marin March 1, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m siding with Alan. Team Frijoles.

  2. maria March 1, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Hi Paty, i’ve been making Tinga for my family using a recipe from Patricia Quintana. I notice that your recipe leaves out such ingredients as chorizo, vinegar, bay leaves, piloncillo, and much more onion than 1 cup. which is the authentic way to prepare it? is your recipe “kid friendly”?

  3. Pati March 3, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Hola Maria,
    I love Patricia Quintana’s food and recipes! Her Tinga is fabulous, I agree! There are as many versions of Tinga, say as of making Bolognese. In my recipe I use a mix of tomatoes and tomatillos, which many cooks in Mexico do: don’t need the vinegar as the tomatillos have a natural tartness that I love. I sometimes make it with chorizo, depends on the mood. But most times I make it as I do in the book, which is what my family loves the most. And it is, authentic too. I consider both Patricia’s and mine to be “kid friendly”.

    • Avatar of Domenica Marchetti
      Domenica Marchetti March 4, 2013 at 7:57 am #

      Pati, your analogy with Bolognese is a good one. I don’t know too much about Mexican cuisine, but it seems similar to Italian in that it differs not only from region to region but also from town to town and hilltop to hilltop. And then, of course, you have to add in every cook’s personality. That’s what makes food and cooking endlessly fascinating.

  4. Maria Elena March 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Dear Pati, Thanks for your response to my question above. I love your show and i cant wait to get my hands on your new book. Congratulations!

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