Get Into The Groove...

Remember how I resolved to do more cooking at home this year? The time has come, my friends. I spent all weekend with the singular goal of unpacking enough dishes, utensils, and food to serve a home-cooked meal on legitimate plates on Sunday night, and with that accomplished, I was able to tackle my first new recipe of 2012 tonight: Chicken Tinga Tacos. I spotted this recipe during the lead-up to the move, when I was reviewing all of my old cooking magazines and saving the interesting recipes to Pinterest so I could dispose of them and avoid schlepping all that heavy paper to my new place. 

This recipe for tinga, a Mexican dish consisting of meat (in this case chicken) stewed in a chipotle-flavored sauce, caught my attention because it said it could be prepared in a slow cooker, though the recipe itself called for braising the meat. Now that my commute has gotten much longer, the idea of having dinner waiting for me when I get home has become exponentially more appealing, and this recipe was devoid of any of the canned cream-of-something soups that dominate a great many slow-cooker recipes. I figured I'd try my hand at deducing some slow-cooker directions and see what happened.

I came around to this recipe sooner rather than later (I pinned over a hundred recipes to my savory dishes inspiration board during my magazine purge) because I spotted chicken thighs on sale at Jewel for 99 cents a pound this week, and now that we're both paying for our lodgings instead of living with our parents for free, I'm trying to be more conscientious about planning my meals around what's available on sale. Previously, I would buy the ingredients for whatever dish caught my fancy at the moment, regardless of price, but now it's time to get budget conscious!

Even though I had to invent the process for myself, I think the meal turned out fairly successfully. I probably could have made things even easier on myself by just dumping all the ingredients into the crockpot the morning I made it (there certainly would have been fewer dishes to wash), but I ended up preparing the sauce the night before because I wasn't sure if it would taste the same. Also, since skinless, bone-in chicken thighs don't exist at the grocery store, I had to buy the skin-on variety and remove it myself. Let's just say my butchering skills could use some work, as that task took me far longer than anticipated in the morning. In the future, I'll be doing all the prep work in advance.

I will be making this recipe again, to be sure. The kitchen smelled heavenly when I got home from work, and more importantly, Justin loved this dish. I think it could use a little bit of extra acidity, for balance, so I altered the ingredient list below to reflect that by adding some vinegar. We resolved the problem at the time by adding some vinegary hot sauce to the tacos, along with a squeeze of lime, which made them much tastier, in my opinion.

Plus, there were plenty of leftovers, so we'll be able to have these for dinner again later in the week, which is always a plus both when it comes to economizing and time management. I think the meat would be equally good folded into a quesadilla, or strewn on top of a Mexican-themed salad, if you don't want to eat the same exact meal more than once in one week.

Chicken Tinga Tacos
adapted from Food and Wine

1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
1 c. chicken broth
2 1/2 pounds skinless chicken thighs, bone-in
1 tablespoon white vinegar
flour tortillas
scallions and crumbled cotija cheese, for garnish

1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, chipotles, and chicken broth and simmer over low heat until thickened.
2. Add sauce, vinegar, and chicken to the crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Remove meat from bones, shred into bite-size pieces, and serve with warm tortillas and garnishes.

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