I grew up on a produce farm/nursery as a child. My parents hired a crew of about 8 to 10 Mexicans to help harvest the produce and work around the farm. The men worked in the fields while the women watched the kids (including my siblings and I), cleaned the homes and cooked. I still remember the “Mom” of the group. She supervised everyone else and spent most of her time in the kitchen making tortillas and cooking up wonderful flavors from Mexico.
She made a dish that I have very fond memories of but never knew the name. I finally attempted to recreate it a few weeks ago and was successful in bringing back those simple but wonderful flavors of chicken cooked with peppers (I use jalapeno or green chilies depending on what I have on hand), tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices. I still don’t know the name of the dish, so I just call it my Mexican Shredded Chicken. If any of you recognize it and know, please feel free to let me know what it’s called.
This week has been all about easy cooking. Sometimes I get in the mood where I don’t feel like spending two or three hours in the kitchen cooking or I just don’t have time, so I pull out the crock pot (it’s something I don’t use enough anyway). I had a whole chicken from the local grocery store sale I wanted to use. I cut the chicken into sections, saving the carcass, gizzards, and leftover pieces of fat, skin, etc. to make chicken stock (no waste going on here, I’m taking full advantage of the chicken). This recipe also works well with leg quarters for an easy, cheap meal.
Now normally you want to keep the lid of the crock pot on but for this dish, use the lid for the first two hours then take it off so the juices cook down while flavoring the chicken. I cooked this one on high for four hours )because I didn’t start it until after lunch) but if you want to do it over night or all day, cook on high for first hour then cut to low for the rest of the time. If you have to leave the lid on from being gone, you can transfer the chicken to a hot skillet on the stove and condense the juices that way. Since you are serving this on tortillas you don’t want it to be too wet.
There is one point where this dish does need some attention. Once the chicken is cooked to the point of falling off the bone, it needs to be taken out of the pot and shredded off the bone. Discard all skin, fat and bones pieces. Add the chicken back to the pot and cook until the liquid is gone.
I also like to use ground Chipotle pepper in this recipe (and plenty of others). It gives a great smoky quality to the dish. You can also use the canned Chipotle peppers but I prefer the ground because I’m not left with a partial can of peppers to sit in the fridge for a while. Just remember a little Chipotle goes a long way, it’s easy to over do it. With seasoning you can always add more, so start with a little and then add to your liking.
I served the Mexican Shredded Chicken up on fresh corn tortillas with cabbage and cheese (it’s also good with tortilla chips or as quesadillas). A dollop of sour cream goes well as well but I had forgotten to buy some this week, so we ate it without. It was easy to make, wonderfully good, loaded with flavor and extremely low-fat (the only added fat came from the cheese). I love using the crock pot! I was able to complete my school assignments, do a little house cleaning and still serve up a yummy dinner to my husband when he got home from work.
Mexican Shredded Chicken
Leg Quarters and Breasts from a 5 to 6 pound Chicken or 4 pounds of leg quarters, with skin on
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
3 large jalapeno, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 ground Chipotle pepper
Cabbage, finely chopped
Shredded Cheese, your choice of flavor
Sour Cream (Fat free does work well for this dish)
Place the chicken into the crock pot first, with leg quarters on the bottom and breasts on top. Then add the rest of the ingredients on top, stirring to mix together. Turn crock pot on high for at least first hour with lid on. Once the chicken is falling off the bone, remove chicken from pot and remove bones and skin. Discard bones and skin, shred the chicken and return to pot to continue cooking. After shredding the chicken and at least two hours of cooking, remove lid to allow liquids to cook down. If can’t remove lid after two hours, do when you can or add shredded chicken to a hot skillet to reduce liquid.
Serve with cabbage, tortillas, cheese and sour cream