Mexican Lamb Barbacoa

Matt and I are a one-car family.  Living in New York, it simply doesn’t make sense to own two.  He has to drive to work whereas I can utilize public transportation.  So it’s an infrequent occasion that I get the car all to myself.  On those days, I take full advantage and usually make a leisurely trip to the grocery store, either Fairway or Whole Foods.  A yummy, slow-cooked meal usually ensues. The last time I got the car, I drove to Fairway for a leg of lamb so I could make Barbacoa.  Barbacoa is known as the original Mexican barbecue.  It is usually made with beef, lamb, or goat, and it’s slow cooked over a bed of coals until super tender.  Then it is shredded and tossed in a chile sauce and normally served in a tortilla.  I’ve had it at restaurants (yes, including Chipotle) many times, but wanted to try my hand at making it at home.

So I approached the butcher and asked for the lamb.  He nodded, then asked if I wanted to know how much per pound it would cost.  I thought for a second, then replied, “Nah.  I’m gonna buy it no matter what, so I think I’d rather not know now.” He chuckled, then butchered and wrapped up my lamb for me.  He handed me the package and I got a look at the price tag.  Sixty bucks for the whole thing.  Ouch.  Cue the rationalizations to begin running through my head:
* It’s okay to splurge every once in a while, right?
* I’ve wanted to make this a long time.
* We work hard, we deserve it.
* And so on and so forth.
When the rationalization freight train had almost run off the tracks, I realized we’d be getting 8 servings out of it.  That adds up to less than ten bucks a serving! Better than eating at a restaurant.  That seemed to satisfy my budget conscience.

And after I tasted it, I stopped caring about how much it did or did not cost per serving, because it was so utterly delicious! I highly recommend this one. You can sub in beef if lamb is unavailable or prohibitively pricey for you. I would use a fatty, tougher cut that takes to slow cooking, like chuck or brisket.

Source: In My Kitchen, by Ted Allen

1 (4 to 4 1/2 lb.) boneless leg of lamb
4 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves (from about 12 sprigs)
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup cider vinegar
3 tbs dried Mexican oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs sugar

Place the dried chiles in a medium stockpot and cover with water. Place over high heat and bring up to a boil. When boiling, shut off the heat, cover, and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.
Place the thyme, garlic, onion, vinegar, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, salt and sugar in a blender. Take the chiles out of their soaking liquid with tongs and add them to the blender. Measure out 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid and pour it into the blender. Puree until it’s a smooth paste, adding more soaking liquid if needed.
Place the lamb in a nonreactive baking dish. Pour the puree all over. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Put the lamb directly in a roasting pan, without a rack. Pour all of the chile mixture over and around the lamb. Cover the roasting pan with foil, and place in the oven. Roast the lamb for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until very tender.
Let rest for 15 minutes. Then use a couple of forks to shred the meat. Serve in warmed tortillas with the pan sauce and any garnishes you prefer.

2 responses to “Mexican Lamb Barbacoa

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