Barbacoa Recipe


 recipe by Daniel Hoyer, Culinary Mexico, Authentic Recipes and Traditions

Makes 10 to 15 Servings

8 to 10 dry guajillo chiles (or New Mexican or California red chiles)
4 to 5 ancho chiles
2 ¼ cups very hot(but not boiling) water
8 cloves garlic, peeled
½ medium white onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon dried, toasted Mexican oregano
1 ounce fresh epazote or 2 to 3 sprigs or fresh thyme and/or marjoram
8 whole allspice or 2 teaspoons ground allspice, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 whole cloves or 1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider or rice)
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 to 2 onions, roughly cut
2 stalks celery
4 to 6 carrots, peeled and sliced
6 to 8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup red, white, or garbanzo beans, cooked (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
1 sprig of fresh epazote or 2 bay leaves
Fresh lime and queso fresco or cotija cheese
For the Meat
2 ½ lb Swiss Chard leaves, (or cabbage leaves, toasted banana leaves, rinsed and patted dry, or a piece of foil large enough to loosely wrap the meat)
20 dried avocado leaves or 12 bay leaves, along with 1 ½ cups fresh fennel tops, coarsely chopped, or 2 tablespoons coarsely ground, toasted anise seed
8 pounds lamb or young goat (bone-in shoulder or leg cuts are best)

1.      For the marinade, first toast the chiles on a comal or heavy skillet, cool slightly, then remove the stems and seeds. Place in the hot water, using a weight if needed to keep the chiles covered; soak for 20 minutes, then strain, reserving the water. Place the chiles in a blender with the remaining marinade ingredients and half of the soaking water. Puree until smooth (add more of the soaking water if needed to make a paste the consistency of thick spaghetti sauce.

2.      Place the meat in a non reactive dish or pan and thoroughly spread the marinade on the meat. Cover and marinate for at least 2 hours or refrigerate overnight (much better).

3.      Set up a pan or ovenproof bowl containing 2 ½ quarts water or light broth, with a rack over the pan to catch the meat juices while cooking.

4.      If you would like to make the soup, put some onions, celery, carrots, potatoes and beans into the pan containing water or broth, along with 2 teaspoons salt and a sprig of fresh epazote or a couple of bay leaves.

5.      For the meat, place two-thirds of the chard, cabbage or banana leaves or the foil to cover the rack. Place the avocado leaves or the bay leaves and fennel or anise seed on the leaves, reserving some for the top of the meat. Place the meat on the rack, add the rest of the avocado leaves, or bay leaves and fennel or anise, and wrap with the remaining leaves or foil to create a loosely sealed package. If you are using foil, be sure to poke a few small holes with a fork in the bottom of the package to allow the juices to drain into the pan or bowl.

6.      Put the pan or bowl with the rack and the package of wrapped meat in a preheated charcoal or gas grill with a lid, a 325-degree-F oven ( a countertop electric roaster works great), or in a large steamer. Cook slowly until meat is fork-tender, almost soft. This will take 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours if the mat is cut in 3- inch chunks, 5 to 6 hours if it is whole, and 7 to 8 hours or more if it is a whole animal. Chicken will take about 1 ¾ to 2 ½ hours.

7.      Remove from heat and allow the meat to cool in the package for 30 to 45 minutes. Unwrap, remove the avocado or bay leaves an dfennel, and hand-shred the meat, adding a little of the broth to keep it moist. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.

8.      To serve the soup, skim the broth of excess fat, adjust the salt, and serve with fresh lime and queso fresco or cotija cheese.

Note:  Barbacoa is great as the meat for a make-your-own-tacos meal with fresh corn tortillas and salsa verde, with a bowl of the steaming soup on the side. Garnish with avocado slices, cotija cheese, chopped onion, and limes.