I have never really thought tequila was for drinking so much as for being mired in self-loathing.
There were, in the liquor cabinet at my parents’ house, three bottles of tequila.
With the exception of the occasional summertime margarita, we are not a tequila-drinking people, and it is unclear to me how this surplus, two bottles of Cuervo Gold and one of some clear brand, came to be there.
It was suggested to me that I might help dispose of the excess. The problem is, there are only so many nights in a year a responsible adult can spend lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling between swigs as Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” plays on repeat.
So, it had to be cooking.
Fortunately, there was a supply of dried mango on-hand and inspiration struck.
I considered making some sort of glaze out of mango juice, tequila and chili peppers, but was foiled by my inability to secure pure mango juice from any of the stores I stopped at Sunday. For some reason, every company that isn’t Goya thinks mango juice needs to be cut with white grape juice. Here’s a handy tip for all of them: it doesn’t.
Perhaps I’ll try the glaze another time, maybe on a pork tenderloin or duck breast. The chicken did just fine without it.
Ideally, you should use a pan just big enough to hold the thighs snugly. The closer together they are, the less liquid you’ll need, and the less you’ll have to reduce the liquid at the end. I hit the sweet spot and didn’t have to reduce at all.
A word of warning: the ratio of chicken thighs to mango-tequila goop was not quite what I would have liked, and the leftovers are going to be eaten with significantly less good than the original servings were. I might, when I try this again, double the amount of mango, though I worry about what that will do to the amount of tequila. I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get there.
- Seven chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
- One cup of dried mango, roughly chopped (Really, I just hacked at them with a knife a couple times before wondering why I was bothering)
- Two onions, diced small
- One dried red chili pepper (It occurred to me later that a jalapeno might have been more thematically appropriate. It would have made for a hotter dish – this was not hot at all.)
- Five cloves of garlic, peeled
- One large dash of cumin
- Tequila (Cuervo Gold in this case)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped.
Put the mango chunks in a cup with just enough tequila to cover and let them soak for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a wide, deep pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Brown the thighs in batches – you don’t need them super brown, because they’ll keep browning in the oven, but you need to get them started – remove and set aside.
Add the onions and cook until soft. Add the cumin and deglaze with some of the tequila you’ve been soaking the mangos in.
Add the garlic, chili pepper, mangos and remainder of the tequila and cook for a minute or so. Return the meat to the pot, skin-side up. Add enough water that the liquid comes about halfway up the sides of the thighs – try to keep as much of the skin showing as possible.
(Had I secured some, I might have used mango juice instead of water, but that would have felt redundant. Had I felt more daring, I would have just poured in more tequila.)
Bring to a boil, slide into the oven, uncovered, and cook for 90 minutes. Check periodically to make sure the liquid doesn’t cook down too far.
(At this stage, it would be appropriate to sing to yourself, “The Cuervo Gold, the mango-braised chicken, makes tonight a wonderful thing.”)
When the thighs are done, remove the pan from the oven and place the thighs on a platter. Discard the chili pepper and, if necessary, boil the liquid down.
Plate each thigh with a spoonful of the mango-tequila goop and garnish with the cilantro. Serve with Quick Mexican Rice.