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Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa {Recipe}


Recipe from Rick Bayless


Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa

Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa


Cooks&Books&Recipes {Dee} on Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa (Barbacoa de Borrego):

Lamb is a bit out of my comfort zone, especially for Mexican food, as I explain here. But hey, we’re talking about a recipe from the famed Chef Rick Bayless, founder of Frontera Grill. According to Bayless, barbacoa is “the stuff dreams are made of.” In his new cookbook, More Mexican Everyday: Simple, Seasonal, Celebratory, he explains that the meat is “beautifully seasoned and slow-cooked to that juicy, fall-apart tenderness that always makes my mouth water. . . . A taco made from coarse shreds of this rich, red chile–flavored meat showered with salsa, onion and cilantro is super-satisfying.”

You can certainly substitute beef for the lamb, but I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. I did, and I’m still dreaming of the next time I can dig in to a flour tortilla overflowing with this perfectly seasoned (with a pleasant bite that’s not too hot) and wonderfully tender meat. Adding to your comfort will be the fact that it’s not only super-satisfying: it’s super-easy too.

Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa

Yield: Serves 6



A 12-inch chunk of an agave leaf (penca de maguey) or 1 large banana leaf, optional

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder

1 12-ounce bottle of Negra Modelo



2 guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces

2 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces

3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 canned chipotle in adobo

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela

1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano


Your favorite hot sauce or salsa

A little chopped white onion

A handful of cilantro leaves


1. Roast the agave leaf (being careful not to touch the exposed flesh of the agave) over an open flame, turning every few minutes until pliable and charred, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness. (If using a banana leaf, run it briefly over an open flame to soften it.) Cut into 3 pieces.

2. In the stovetop-safe insert of your slow cooker or in a very large (12-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Pat the lamb dry with a paper towel, sprinkle generously with salt and lay it in the insert of skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until richly brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Fit the insert into the machine or transfer the meat to the slow cooker.

3. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a blender with 2 cups of water and blend to a smooth puree. Pour through a medium mesh strainer into the slow cooker. Nestle the pieces of agave leaf or banana leaf under and around the meat, if you are using them. Cover and turn on the slow cooker to high. Your barbacoa will be done in about 6 hours, though you can hold it for longer. (My slow-cooker can be programmed to switch from high after 6 hours to a “keep warm” temperature for up to another 6 hours. Some slow cookers click to “keep warm” automatically; others need to be switched manually.)

4. When you are ready to serve, coarsely shred the lamb and arrange it on a warm platter. Skim any fat from the sauce that remains in the slow cooker, and then taste it. If you feel it would be better with a more concentrated flavor, pour it into a medium saucepan or remove the insert and set it over high heat. Boil for a few minutes to reduce that quantity, then taste and season with salt if it needs it. Spoon as much as you like over the lamb or beef. (I like to sprinkle coarse salt over the meat at this point.) Serve the barbacoa with the hot sauce or salsa, onion and cilantro. Grab some tortillas, if you like, and you’re ready to make some delicious tacos.

In a large (6- to 8-quart, at least 12 inches in diameter) heavy pot (preferably a Dutch oven), combine the ingredients as described. Set the cover in place and braise in a 300-degree oven for about 3 hours, adding water occasionally if necessary to ensure the liquid stays at about the same level. Finish as described.

© 2015 Rick Bayless. Reprinted with permission.

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