Spicy chicken dish for a lazy weekend

Gretchen McKay

When your son offers to cook for you, you don’t say no, even when you know you’ll be footing the bill for the groceries. (Some things never change.) Then again, I would have paid handsomely in a restaurant for this spicy Mexican dish, which features shredded chicken simmered in a smoky red sauce made with six varieties of dried chile.

Given its lengthy cooking time, you’ll probably want to try it on the weekend. But then you’ll have plenty of leftovers to stuff into burritos or pile on crunchy tostadas.

Another plus: Because it’s served with a variety of toppings — everything from shredded lettuce and Mexican crema to sliced avocado or guacamole, each diner can customize the final product.

Chicken Tinga

For chile paste

1 dried pasilla pepper

1 dried morita pepper

1 dried ancho pepper

2 dried guajillo peppers

2 dried chipotle peppers

2 dried chiles de arbol

For chicken tinga

3 pounds boneless chicken breast or thigh

Vegetable oil for frying

Salt and pepper

Large onion, thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

10-ounce can diced tomatoes with chile (we used RoTel)

28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken stock

2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder (we used hatch chili powder from Reyna Foods)

Make chile paste: Clean chiles by removing stems and seeds, place in microwave-safe bowl, then microwave at 15 second intervals for 30 to 60 seconds to release flavors. Add enough water to bowl to coat peppers and microwave for an additional minute. Let cool then puree into a thick paste. Set aside.

Make tinga: Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat a small amount of oil until almost smoking. In batches, brown pieces of chicken; remove to plate.

Once chicken is done cooking, add the sliced onion to the pan and cook in juices until slightly browned. Add garlic and continue to cook another minute or two until light golden brown. Add pureed chile pepper paste and dried chili powder and cook for 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes and bring to a soft boil.

Add cooked chicken back to pot. Cover and place in 350-degree oven; bake until chicken is tender, 1 hour to 90 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and shred into bite-sized strands. Place pan over medium heat and cook sauce until reduced by about half. Add shredded chicken back to pan and cook with sauce, stirring occasionally, for another 10 to 20 minutes until sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon.

Serve chicken with warm tortillas with your favorite toppings — fresh guacamole, crumbed queso fresco, Mexican Cream or sour cream, salsa, and 1 or 2 slices ripe avocado. Serves 8.

— Dan McKay