Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Barbacoa de Borrego (Lamb Shoulder Slow Roasted...)

When am I going to learn? When am I going to realize that its probably not a good idea to have the oven on for 4 hours, slowly braising meat (spicy meat, at that) when its 95 degrees outside? I was so hot and sweaty, I wasn't sure I'd be able to enjoy dinner!!

But I was wrong! It was hot and spicy and dreamy! We're spicy food lovers, my husband especially. If you are, too, you'll enjoy this dish. Its hot in a way that makes your forehead sweat, but doesn't cause an uncomfortable burn in your mouth. Its hot, sure, but not a heat you'll regret. I promise. But don't hold it against me.

I will say that I had a couple of changes. First, I only had 4 ancho chiles (instead of 6) and I didn't have any mezcal (or tequila, for substitution), and I don't think I had the mezcal the first time I made this dinner, either. If you have it, use it, but it won't suffer if you don't.

We had this with flour tortillas (corn would be good, too) and the same poblano rice from our Easter dinner. Two nights later, we had the leftovers, and I think they were almost better than the firstovers. ;) We even had extra that I put into the freezer.

Something I'm proud of: all the produce (and even the lamb cubes), save for the banana leaves, came from either my CSA or the local Farmer's Market. Local food has been something of a recent quest for us, and this dinner made good use of that. The local produce is fresher, spicier, and less expensive than the grocery store, and I for one am not looking forward to winter - even if the oven being on for 4 hours makes sense! :)

Barbacoa de Borrego
Lamb Shoulder Slow Roasted in Banana Leaves with Ancho-Guajillo Chile Sauce
From Dona Tomas: Discovering Authentic Mexican Cooking, by Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky

for the Ancho-Guajillo Chile Sauce:
6 dried ancho chiles
6 dried guajillo chiles
5 tablespoons canola oil
2 white onions, coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 quart water
Kosher salt

3 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into 3-inch pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup canola oil
2 to 3 large banana leaves
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
¼ cup mezcal
7 whole cloves
7 whole allspice berries
3 to 4 cups chicken broth

To make the sauce, place a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the ancho and guajillo chiles and toast for 2 to 3 minutes, pressing them into the pan and turning occasionally with tongs to prevent burning, until the skins begin to brown and the chiles become soft and flexible and give off their spicy aroma. While the chiles are still hot, remove the stems and seeds and submerge in a bowl of hot water for about 30 minutes to rehydrate.

Place a sauté pan over high heat and add 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Decrease the heat as necessary to prevent browning. Transfer the onions to a blender. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan over low heat and add the garlic. Slowly roast for 7 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the garlic without the oil to the blender with the onion.

Drain the chiles and add to the blender with the oregano, water, and salt to taste. Puree on high speed until smooth and incorporated. Adjust the seasoning with salt as necessary. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week; be sure to whisk well before using.

Season the lamb well with salt and pepper. Heat a 12-inch braising pan over high heat and add the oil. Place the meat in the braising pan in an even layer and sear for 3 to 5 minutes, until caramelized on the bottom. Decrease the heat to medium-high and turn the meat over. Cook the second side for 7 to 10 minutes, until browned. Remove the meat from the pan and wipe out any residual oil. Allow the pan to cool for 5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the braising pan as thoroughly as possible with a large banana leave (you may need to cut or tear the leaf to make it conform to the pan). Cover the leave with the onion and carrot and evenly layer the meat over the vegetables. Sprinkle the meat with the mezcal, cloves, and allspice. Add about 1 quart of the sauce so that the lamb is half submerged. Top with 3 or more cups of the chicken broth, so the lamb is fully submerged. Cover the whole assembly with another layer of banana leaf, then cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Roast for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is tender, piercing with a metal skewer or small knife to check for doneness.

Transfer the entire braising pan to the stove top. Remove the upper layer of banana leaf and discard. With tongs, gently remove the pieces of lamb and set aside on a serving platter. Remove the bottom and side pieces of banana leaf and discard.

Heat the braising liquid over high heat. Skim off the layer of floating fat and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until reduced by about one-third and the sauce begins to thicken. When the proper consistency is achieved, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary. Generously spoon the sauce over the meat before serving.


myriam said...

hi katie. nice recipe! finally posted 8 random facts about me. i hope you will still come back to after you read it. ;-)

Deborah said...

This sounds amazing!