I first heard of pork tinga ("tinga de puerco," a Mexican dish of spicy shredded meat) at a hip cantina in East Austin featuring interior Mexican food. Two hours south of Mexico City, Puebla is a city of colorful markets and fabulous food. It has been described as the gastronomic capital of Mexico and therefore remains on my list of places to visit. I could literally eat any form of Mexican food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and never tire of it.
Tinga is a lively, tangy stew made up of pork, tomatoes, and chipotle chiles. It is traditionally made low and slow on the stove but I have converted this by making a few minor adjustments to the original recipe, and my slow cooker does the heavy lifting. To solve the problem of soupiness, I transfer the meat to a Dutch oven set over high heat. The liquid boils out, concentrating flavors and giving me the crispy edges that tinga lovers crave.
Traditionally the shredded meat is served on crisp tostadas, but it can also be wrapped in warm tortillas, or piled on tortilla chips. I love tostadas, as do my kids, and when you add some crumbly and salty cotija cheese, cilantro, avocado, and a squirt of lime, you have the most delectable meal.
2 pounds boneless pork butt roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces (Despite its name, this flavorful cut actually comes from the upper portion of the hog’s shoulder. Also called Boston butt, it is relatively fatty and tough and thus needs long, slow cooking to tenderize. It’s my go-to cut for pork stews, pulled pork, and tinga.)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 onion, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 chipotle chile, minced (small cans of chipotles in adobo are found on the ethnic food aisle)
Kosher salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Tostada shells (My favorite is Mission Tostadas Estilo Casero)
Crumbled queso fresco (Translates as "fresh cheese" — a Mexican cheese, traditionally made from raw cow milk or a combination of cow and goat milk. You will find pasteurized versions in the US. The flavor is bright, milky, and mild.)
Fresh cilantro leaves
Sour cream (I like to mix the sour cream with Verde salsa or lime juice to thin it out, then put in a ziptop bag, cut corner off the bag and squeeze zigzag lines over the top of the tostada...fancy.)
Slow cooker magic
Combine pork, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, chipotle chile, 1 teaspoon salt, oregano, thyme, and bay leaves in slow cooker. Use a slow cooker liner! Cook until pork is tender, 8 to 10 hours on low. Discard bay leaves. Using a pastry cutter, mash pork in slow cooker until shredded into bite-size pieces.
Finish and serve a crowd
Transfer contents from slow cooker liner bag to a Dutch oven set over high heat. Stirring occasionally, until all liquid has evaporated and mixture begins to brown in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Spoon a small amount of pork onto the center of each tostada shell and serve, passing queso fresco, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, avocado, and lime wedges separately. For heavens sake, serve with margaritas!