I recently hosted a casual weeknight dinner for six neighbors who wanted to discuss the political climate and how to change it. Overnight, it mushroomed into a dinner for 20, which was good news in terms of the level of engagement we were generating, but challenging news for the cook.

Undeterred, I set to work on a crowd-pleasing Mexican braised chicken, which was easy to multiply, buffet-friendly and could be wrapped in tacos, spooned over rice or just eaten with a fork.

Even better, the braising liquid, which I saved for future use, yielded a scrumptious Mexican chicken soup. The broth freezes well, so, even if you don’t want to use it right away, stockpile it for later.

My family is partial to white meat, and I was in a time crunch, so I used boneless breasts. Boneless thighs would work well if you are feeding a dark meat crowd. Using skin-on, bone-in pieces yields more flavor, but also requires more work.

 

Mexican Braised Chicken

4 large boneless chicken breasts or 6 boneless chicken thighs (approximately 4 pounds)

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

1 teaspoon salt

1 whole lime

½ cup salsa

½ cup crushed tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock

1 cup chopped cilantro

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté the onion, garlic and spices. When fragrant, add the chicken.

Sear the chicken pieces on both sides.

Cut the lime and squeeze the juice onto the chicken, then add the lime halves to the pot. Pour in the salsa, chicken stock and

crushed tomato.

Bring the ingredients to a boil, then cover and lower the heat. Add the chopped cilantro. Simmer for 2 hours until the chicken falls apart when pricked with a fork.

Shred the chicken, and drain almost all of the cooking liquid; reserve the liquid. If desired, reserve 1 cup of the shredded chicken for soup. (Note: The shredded chicken should still be moist; do not it drain to the point of drying it out.)

Serve over rice or with tortillas with lime wedges and chopped

fresh cilantro. 

Serves 8 JN

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