Discussion in 'Lamb' started by jonathan, Dec 31, 2007.

  1. jonathan

    jonathan Fire Starter

    Since I'm going to be doing some of my first batches of smoking on my own smoker soon (as opposed to leeching of friends with smokers), once I've done a couple chicken and such to ensure I have a feel for the MES, my plan is to go back in time to the origin of the word barbeque, Mexican Barbacoa. Seems proper that as I start smoking seriously, to start at the beginning.

    Now, I don't have maguey leaves (think the agave plant used to make mezcal) to wrap around the meat but I can get banana locally which will be close. I also will be using a smoker primarily rather than burying it with the wood and so forth as is traditional.

    That has gotten me hunting for recipes though. Here is one I found. I'm curious people's thoughts. Obviously I won't be doing it in an oven, but I'm curious the reason for the tinfoil around the meat. Wouldn't that limit the smoke intake? Also temperature wise, does the 275 seem high?

    And now without more ado, a barbacoa recipe apparently originally written up in the New York Daily News in 2004 (for proper attribution):

    In Oaxaca, the meat typically cooks underground, or in cone-shaped pits. Sophistication aside, there is something caveman-like about the broad cuts, big bones, and huge portions - all the better to devour on a tortilla, with a cold Mexican beer.

    For those without fire pits, wood-burning ovens or backyards, DiCataldo has adapted the following recipe, which he calls "Weekend Barbacoa." To replicate a real fire, the recipe calls for an applewood smoke-stick, a small (roughly 12 by 2 by 2 inches), odorless, foam-like stick that DiCataldo obtains from Korin Japanese Trading Company (57 Warren Street; 212-587-7021; A word of caution: The applewood smokestick will cause smoke to emanate from the oven, so keep your hood
    turned on.

    The barbecue is served with tortillas and accompaniments (salsa, lime, guacamole) so you can roll it up, but you could eat it with a fork, too. The stock becomes an intensely flavored "soup," also served on the side. Any way you do it, it's good.

    Equipment needed
    • Blender
    • Roasting rack large enough to hold meat
    • Deep (4-inch or more) roasting pan compatible with above roasting rack
    • Oven with ventilation hood
    • Aluminum foil
    • 2-inch segment of applewood smokestick
    • 2 32-inch lengths of thick butcher's twine
    Lamb Barbacoa
    Serves 12

    For the chili adobo:
    (Makes enough for 5-pound barbecue)
    • 8 to 10 dried guajillo chilis, stems removed but seeds intact
    • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
    • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
    • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
    • 1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
    • 2 tablespoons oregano (the citrus-y, Mexican kind preferred)
    • 2 cups hot water
    • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 8 to 10 sprigs of thyme
    • 1 medium white onion, diced into 2-inch pieces
    • 1/2 cup white vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
    For the lamb:
    • 4-5 lb. lamb shoulder, leg or butt
    • Wet spice rub (recipe above)
    • Coarse kosher salt
    • Thawed banana leaf, available frozen at Asian or Latino markets
    • 10-15 dried bay leaves (or avocado leaves if you can find them)
    For the stock (caldo de barbacoa):
    • 3 sprigs celery, leaves and ends trimmed, diced into 2-inch pieces
    • 2 large carrots, diced into 1-inch pieces (about 1 =BD cups)
    • 1 medium white onion, diced into 2-inch pieces
    • 5 sprigs thyme
    • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 4 plum tomatoes, quartered
    • 2 quarts chicken stock
    • 1 quarts water
    • 1/2 cup chili adobo
    The dish can also be made with other meats: beef short ribs, chicken, turkey, duck, whole fish, and for the really ambitious, suckling pig. Cooking times are adjusted accordingly: For example, a 3- to 4-lb. chicken would take 2 1/2 hours to roast at 275 degrees.

    Place an ungreased skillet over high heat. Add chilis and toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Shake skillet vigorously, and add peppercorns, cloves, cumin and allspice. After another 2 minutes, add oregano and heat through.

    Put contents of skillet into blender. Add remaining ingredients, stripping thyme leaves from stems directly into blender. Cover and blend, increasing speed until contents are smooth and foamy.

    Adobo can be used immediately or refrigerated for a firmer texture, making it easier to use.

    Rub lamb generously with adobo, saving excess for future use. Sprinkle with salt. Set meat fat-side up over one or more banana leaves, trimmed to wrap around meat. Do not close.

    Arrange bay leaves on fatty side of meat. Fold banana leaves to close packet, and secure with twine. Leave short ends open.

    Place all ingredients in the roasting pan. There should be 1 inch remaining at the lip of the pan for drippings.

    Method of assembly:
    Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

    Place lamb packet onto roasting rack, and fit rack over filled pan. Wrap foil, shiny side in, around top and sides of packet, leaving bottom (side resting on rack) uncovered.

    With 4-inch length of foil, make a loosely crumpled ball, or nest. Light the 2-inch segment of smokestick (use either a match or your gas burner). The stick will immediately begin to emit fragrant smoke. Place smoking stick into foil nest (4). Place nest next to meat packet, and put the roasting pan and rack into oven. Turn on ventilation.

    Roast for 8 hours (to adjust according to your schedule, raise or lower heat).

    Remove from oven, and press on meat with spatula. If meat yields, it is done.

    Strain stock and skim off grease with a separator or, if time allows, by refrigerating.

    Unwrap meat, remove bay or avocado leaves and discard them. Coarsely shred meat with a fork. Ladle stock into pot, and serve it and meat with accompaniments: corn tortillas, minced onions, guacamole, lime wedges, cilantro, salsa and cold beer.
  2. jonathan

    jonathan Fire Starter

    Mutton vs Lamb

    One other thing to note is that this probably should be yearling mutton or simply mutton as opposed to lamb. Some parts of mexico would use goat, and others even used pork. Mutton though is probably the most common.

    In that way a bit like Kentucky mutton bbq.
  3. goat

    goat Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    The real "Barbacoa is a cow's head cooked over coals in an underground pit.
  4. cowgirl

    cowgirl Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I've cooked goat in the underground pit, but not lamb or mutton.

    goat, that's what I've been taught too, cow's head.

    Good post Jonathan, very informative![​IMG]
    If you do not want to use foil to wrap the meat, season and wrap the meat in wet works great!
  5. teacup13

    teacup13 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  6. cowgirl

    cowgirl Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    [​IMG] Thanks for the info teacup! Sort of a regional thing I guess.[​IMG]
  7. teacup13

    teacup13 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    yup, my missus's uncle is from Mexico, and so is my new puppies

    most of the food down there is prepared with what is on hand and plentiful by the region they are in

    some of my missus's step family is mexican and navajo
  8. goat

    goat Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    You are correct Teacup. It is a regional thing and I just happen to be in the region that predominantly uses a cow head.

    Throughout Mexico, barbacoa varies by region. In the far north, cow head predominates. Barbacoa makers use goat in the area around Monterrey. Pig is served in the Yucatan, and sheep in Hidalgo. What unites the various barbacoas is the cooking method, developed by the Chichimeca Indians of northern Mexico, according to Cristina Barros and Marco Buenrostro, who have written several books on Mexican cooking.
  9. cowgirl

    cowgirl Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Interesting teacup![​IMG]

    We do a lot of pigs and goats in my area a few hind quarters of venison and hunks of beef, a few cowheads...the old timers taught us to use wet burlap sacks to wrap the meat (no banana leaves available).

    Heck feed used to come in burlap bags, it was easy to get burlap. Now it comes in plastic woven bags...(I buy in bulk by the ton).
    One thing I've found handy is wraping the meat in wire for easy lifting out of the pit....when the meat is done it's so tender, it wants to fall apart. The wire sure helps!

    Now I'm ready for spring! I feel the need to bury something. lol
  10. teacup13

    teacup13 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    one of my fondest memories was of eating a lamb cooked in the ground

    my grandma took us to a church function, the lamb was covered in burlap and cooked that way

    was the most tender,juicy, flavorful lamb i have eaten in 30 years
  11. jonathan

    jonathan Fire Starter

    I'd heard of cooking the cow head in Texas, but have never seen it.

    When cooking head, what are the main portions you eat? The brain? Cheeks? Tongue?
  12. cowgirl

    cowgirl Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Yes...the cheeks are the my opinion.
    If you do a head...any might want to remove the eyes first. They explode while cooking. It's better just to remove them before hand.[​IMG] Just my opinion (again)[​IMG]
  13. goat

    goat Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    IMHO the cheek meat is the best. Of course, there are folks that dine on the other parts. I believe that in most of this area, the tongue is removed prior to cooking.
  14. jonathan

    jonathan Fire Starter

    Couldn't get fresh mutton, so picked up a fresh leg of goat today to smoke tomorrow. Going to try the above recipe and see how it comes out. The leg is only 5lbs bone in, so not a huge piece, but I figure it'll make a good test.

    Any thoughts on smoking goat, etc? I figure if I want to pull I still want to bring it up to 190 internal? And go at 225 or so?
  15. walking dude

    walking dude Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    LOL.......does goat know this.......[​IMG]
  16. jonathan

    jonathan Fire Starter

    Didn't want to worry him. ;) I suspect he'll figure it out next time he tries to stand up. The meat seems sort of tough though.
  17. walking dude

    walking dude Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member


    d88de reaches for the windex AGAIN
  18. goat

    goat Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Easy guys. I have never used a thermometer cooking goat. I cook it slow until it is done and then wrap it in foil and cook some more until it falls off the bone. I would take it to the same temp you take a chuck roast, whatever that is.
  19. jonathan

    jonathan Fire Starter

    So, the goat just went into the smoker, upper and lower half of the leg. Here is the lower half after sitting in the chili adobo:


    More to come as I put the fatties on, and perhaps some jalapenos later.
  20. jonathan

    jonathan Fire Starter

    Tossed on a few AMT. Did them lengthwise rather than lopping the top off.

    Also just tossed on the fatty. Its two chubs combined, filled with lots of cheese and parboiled asparagus. Did a carribean sort of rub, but then put paprika on top for a bit of color:

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