Birria, a classic Mexican stew from Jalisco, is traditionally made with goat but also enjoyed with lamb or beef. This weeknight version features juicy chicken thighs for faster cooking. A quick blender sauce of dried chiles, garlic and tomatoes creates a smoky and rich base for the stew, which deepens in flavor as the chicken simmers. Here, the birria is enjoyed as a stew, but it also makes terrific tacos: Simply dip tortillas in the warm broth, fill them with shredded chicken and top with chopped white onion and cilantro, then fold in half and pan-fry until golden and crispy.
• 3 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces
• 3 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces
• 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
• 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
• 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
• 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
• Kosher salt and black pepper
• 3 tablespoons safflower or canola oil
• 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
• 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion (from 1/2 medium onion), plus more for garnish
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 dried bay leaf
• Chopped cilantro, for garnish
• 1 lime, quartered, for serving
• Rice, for serving (optional)
In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the dried chiles and 1 cup of the broth, and bring to a boil, stirring to submerge the chiles. Remove from heat and let stand for 3 minutes. In a blender, combine the chiles and the liquid, the tomatoes and their juices, vinegar and garlic, then season with salt and pepper, and purée until smooth.
In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and add half to the pot. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 3 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, oregano, cumin, cloves and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 2 cups broth and the puréed sauce (carefully, as it may splatter), scraping up browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add chicken (and any accumulated juices), and bring to a boil. Simmer briskly over medium, partially covered, until sauce is thickened and chicken is cooked through, 25 minutes. Taste and season with salt.
Divide birria among 4 bowls, and top with onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and rice, if using.
Total time: 45 minutes, serves 4.