What to cook for the Today Show?
With so many options being juggled in my head, I was growing restless as the date got closer.
As I started exchanging emails with one of the producers, I began to throw ideas: what about different kinds of Salsas, variations of that irresistible cold and wet Tres Leches cake, funky versions of Guacamole, or a sample of fresh Ceviches…?
Or, wait. How about something easy, tasty and flashy like Tequila, Cream and Chipotle Shrimp? It’s so much fun to prepare, I told the producer. You ignite the pan, the flames come up right after the shrimp begin to brown, and then they wind down right before you pour the cream. Your guests feel special and impressed…
I had to agree that we were better off staying away from igniting anything on the set.
Oh, I got it! A chicken dish. Everyone wants a good chicken dish in their recipe box. And one of the tastiest ways to eat chicken in Mexican kitchens, no doubt about it, is Chicken Tinga.
Although it comes from the state of Puebla, it is so popular, that it is eaten throughout the country. So of course there are countless variations.
I have a favorite version. One that I have tweaked through the years until I found a balance of flavors that needs no more tweaking, if you ask me…
A great thing about the Tinga, is that you only need a handful of ingredients. Some are familiar to everyone, like tomatoes, onion and garlic. The other needed Mexican
ingredients are readily available throughout the US these days, and people should become familiar with them, as they are absolutely blissful.
Catchy and irresistible, starting with the name, the Tinga is easy to prepare, packed with flavor, and once you make it, can be refashioned in a thousand ways. Plus it stores in the refrigerator well, and it’s one of those dishes that add on flavor as its reheated.
After talking with Bianca, the food stylist in charge at the Today Show, we decided to cook the Tinga, and show the viewers a couple choices of how to play with it: Tostadas and what can be called Tinga’Dillas.
Here is Bianca on the set, right before the segment. She rocks, friends.
OK. It is so crazy in that set, but oh so fun, fun, fun crazy… And the whole food styling team is amazing.
And you see that clock under the screen? It says 9:39. Segment was going to be shot at 9:46. Yes, I got dizzy and nauseated, and hyper and sleepy all at the same time…
When all was said and done, we ate the Tostadas and the Tinga ‘Dillas. And after that, we hugged. I hugged them so tight, out of thankfulness, everyone there was so generous and warm.
From the lovely woman Roma, who fixed my hair (Thank the Heavens, I never know what to do with it and always pull it up), to the hilarious Gilberto, who did my make up (Thank the Seas, because I can hardly curl my eye lashes properly), to the professional Food styling team with Bianca and Allison and the rest, to the generous and kind producers Vivian and Alicia…
The Tostadas and Tinga’Dillas are perfect for casual entertaining. They can be messy, but its a delicious kind of messy. And after all, its the middle of the summer. If you get too messy, just turn on the hose.
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- 8 large flour tortillas
- 4 slices Monterey jack cheese muenster cheese, or Mexican manchego
- 2 cups chicken tinga recipe above
- 2 cups guacamole home made or store bought, on the side
- Heat a non-stick skillet or comal over medium-low heat. You may also use the grill. Once hot, after 3 or 4 minutes, layer 2 flour tortillas, the cheese slices and the Chicken Tinga. Place 2 flour tortillas on top of the open ones, and let them cook until the tortilla on the bottom has begun to harden a bit. Flip to the other side with the help of a cooking spatula and let the quesdillas continue to warm up, until the cheese has completely melted and the tortillas have hardened on both sides.
- Repeat with the rest.
- Serve with guacamole for your guests to spoon on top.