Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes (40 minutes active) Servings: 4
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 earthy, citrus notes, 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 spices, 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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 the sauce is slightly thickened and clings to the skillet, 5 to 8 minutes.
4. 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.