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Mexican Barbecued Lamb (Barbacoa) Recipe

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This recipe for Mexican Barbecued Lamb (Barbacoa), by , is from The McCabe Family Cookbook Project, one of the cookbooks created at FamilyCookbookProject.com. We'll help you start your own personal cookbook! It's easy and fun. Click here to start your own cookbook!

Jimi McCabe


8 to 10 fresh or dried avocado leaves (optional; soak dried leaves for 20 minutes in cold water to cover)

6 guajillo chiles
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ medium-size onion, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 whole cloves
2 whole allspice berries
1 small piece (½ inch) cinnamon stick, or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
½ leg of lamb bone-in (about 4 pounds), trimmed of any papery skin

1 medium-size onion, cut into ½-inch dice
2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 zucchini, scrubbed and cut into ½-inch dice
1 piece (12 ounces) calabaza (Mexican squash) or butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
½ small green cabbage, cored and cut into ½-inch dice
1 large ripe tomato, cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium-size potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 ear corn (optional), shucked and cut into ½-inch rounds
2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs cilantro, and 2 sprigs epazote (optional), tied in a piece of cheesecloth
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 chipotle pepper, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Warm tortillas
Salsa Mexicana (See Appetizers, Salsas and Beverages Section)

1. Prepare the chile paste and lamb: Stem the guajillo chiles, tear them open, and remove the veins and seeds. Soak the chiles in water to cover until they are soft and pliable, about 20 minutes. Drain the chiles and place them in a blender with the garlic, coarsely chopped onion, oregano, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon, salt, vinegar, and ¼ cup of water. Process to a smooth paste.
2. Using the tip of a paring knife, make a series of slits in the lamb, ¼ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Smear the chile paste all over the lamb, working it into the slits. Cover the lamb loosely with plastic wrap and let marinate, in the refrigerator, for 4 to 8 hours (the longer the better).
3. Prepare the consommé: Combine the diced onion, carrots, zucchini, calabaza, cabbage, tomato, potato, corn (if using), herb bundle, and 10 to 12 cups of water in a large fire-proof pot.
4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium-low.
5. You’re now ready to assemble the barbacoa. Place the consommé pot in the center of the grate that holds the charcoal, or if using gas, in the center of the grill grate (away from the heat). Place a metal rack, like a sturdy cake rack, on top and layer half of the avocado leaves (if using) on top; if not using avocado leaves, oil the rack. Place the lamb, fat side up, on top of the rack and avocado leaves and carpet it with the remaining leaves (if using). Cover the grill tightly.
6. Cook the barbacoa until the lamb is fall-off-the-bone tender, 3 to 4 hours. When the lamb is done, an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg (but not touching the bone) will register between 180° and 190°F. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side every hour.
7. To serve the barbacoa, discard the top layer of avocado leaves and transfer the lamb and bottom layer of leaves to a platter. Let rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice the meat or cut it into chunks. Remove and discard the herb bundle from the consommé. Using a ladle, skim off any fat floating on the surface of the soup. Stir in the chopped cilantro and chipotle and season the consommé with salt and pepper to taste; the soup should be highly seasoned. Serve the consommé first, then the meat, accompanying both with tortillas and salsa.

Number Of Servings:
Number Of Servings:
Preparation Time:
Preparation Time:
4 - 8 Hrs lamb + 4 hrs cooking
Personal Notes:
Personal Notes:
The consommé pot filled with water, beans, vegetables, garlic, and bunches of cilantro and epazote
becomes the consommé de cordeiro (lamb soup, flavored with the drippings), which is an essential part of barbacoa.




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