Tinga de Pollo (Guisados, Los Angeles)
The word guisado means “stew” or “braise” in Spanish – like the unforgettable dinners stewed stovetop by Armando De La Torre Jr.’s mother and grandmother in L.A. “It’s the kind of food you came home to after school,” De La Torre Jr. recalls. “Mom wasn’t out on the grill cooking carne asada every day. She was slow-cooking meats and chicken to serve with rice and beans.” So when De La Torre Jr. opened the Guisados taqueria in 2010 on Cesar Chavez Avenue, in L.A., he devoted the entire menu to “those old homestyle traditional meals.” And nothing, of course, could be more homestyle than this classic chicken tinga, straight out of Southern California by way of the Mexican State of Puebla, where tinga remains both a Cinco de Mayo treat and an everyday staple. “I know this recipe sounds almost too simple,” says De La Torre Jr., “but it’s meant to be that way.”
• 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 6 garlic cloves (4 minced, 2 smashed)
• 2 cloves
• 2 tomatoes
• 5 chipotle chilies
• ½ cup chicken stock
• 2 tsp cumin
• 1/2 tsp nutmeg
• 2 tbsp vegetable oil
• 2 white onions, halved and sliced
• Iceberg lettuce, shredded
• Salt and pepper
• 2 avocados, sliced
• 12 tortillas
Put chicken in a pot with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add smashed garlic cloves and 2 spice cloves. Simmer until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove chicken from water, let cool, shred with two forks.
For the sauce, set the whole tomatoes in a very hot cast-iron skillet and roll slowly around until blackened on all sides. Put tomatoes, chipotles, chicken stock, cumin, and nutmeg in a blender until smooth.
In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high burner. Add minced garlic, onions, and lettuce. Sauté 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Add tomato-chili mixture, stir for 3 minutes, add shredded chicken. Simmer uncovered just until you see most of the liquid has cooked off and evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve on warm fresh corn tortillas, with sliced avocado topping each taco.