Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Slow Cooker Lamb (or Beef) Barbacoa

Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa is rich and flavorful, loaded with authentic Mexican flavors. This impressive recipe is so simple to make. Easily prepared with lamb or beef seared until is is richly brown and then slow cooked in the most fabulous sauce until it is so tender that it falls apart.
Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa is rich and flavorful, loaded with authentic Mexican flavors. This impressive recipe is so simple to make. Easily prepared with lamb or beef seared until is is richly brown and then slow cooked in the most fabulous sauce until it is so tender that it falls apart.

When it comes to beer, Chad and I tend to lean toward Mexican beer. So needless to say, I was so excited to receive an invitation to Negra Modelo's The Perfect Complement event in Scottsdale, Arizona hosted by Chef Rick Bayless. To be completely honest, I had no idea who the chef was but I knew I loved the beer.

Well, first I Googled Chef Rick Bayless and found out that he is a famous chef that has had a show on PBS for over 10 years called Mexico: One Plate at a Time. He specializes in Mexico food with a modern twist. I am sure you already know I didn't need to read anymore. We were going to this event. Great Mexican food and fabulous beer? We're in!

We arrived at the resort early for a private press event; a meet and greet with Chef Rick. We were met with an icy cold beer and a plate of appetizers (including a Mango Pork Empanada that was insanely delish). We had a chance to catch up with some local food writers and publishers.

The beer was icy cold and fabulous. Negra Modelo is Mexico's top selling dark beer and the #2 import in the USA. It is a dark beer, but it is different than what you normally associate with dark beer. The slow roasting of the malts alone makes the brewing process last twice as long as other beers, producing its signature reddish color and hint of sweetness. Which makes it incredibly drinkable.

Chef Rick was chatting it up with a few other cheffie types and seemed very approachable, so I decided to approach him for a chat. LOL. I introduced myself and told him I had Googled him because I did not know who he was. (Chad says I should hold back on the blatant honesty sometimes, but it just escapes me. Who has time to beat around the bush?)

Chef Rick never missed a beat, he smiled and told me a little bit about himself. It was such a pleasure to hear about his restaurants, his culinary passion and inspiration. We talked about Mexico and the flavors that inspire him. He is very laid back, personable and unpretentious. Our chat had me just about dying to see him cook and taste his food. What a magnificent time! I had to ask about dinner and he clued me in that he was making barbacoa. Which is one of my all-time favorites!

Next we headed out to the lawn for the evenings festivities. The weather was absolutely perfect. I was pretty excited to watch Chef Rick in action and did I mention the food? LOL. We were introduced to special guest Chef  Michael Cairns. They two were like Frick and Frack. It was almost as though they had worked together for years. They were completely delightful and both are really funny.

Finally! They announced what they were preparing: Poached Salmon in Hominy Broth and Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa both perfectly pair with Negra Modelo. Ugh. I knew I had never enjoyed salmon before and I hadn't ever tried lamb. But, I watched anyway. I figured I would give them a sample and move on.

The presentation alone had me on the edge of my seat. Chef Rick pulled out a slow cooker and I was immediately intrigued. Did you know there are stovetop safe slow cooker inserts? You can sear your meat right in the slow cooker insert and then pop it into the slow cooker. I am totally checking that out. It is amazing to see an award-winning chef-restaurateur make cooking so accessible. Both Chef's were magnificent and the aroma's wafting through the air all but carried me onto the stage. They offered great cooking tips.

Did you know that if you rinse a chopped onion under cool water, it will deflame it? You know that bitterness that raw onion gives off? If you deflame it the onion is tame and fabulous. I have to say that I was a little intimidated to work with dried chiles, until this night Chef Rick just chucked them in a blender with a few other ingredients and made a fabulous sauce. Seriously? So easy!

At long last the plates were passed and we were all able to sample the dishes. I took my obligatory bite of the Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa and my taste buds lit up. It was rich, warm and flavorful. The addition of Negra Modelo really adds a whole new dimension of flavor. The dish had a great texture and the deflamed raw onion and fresh cilantro were sensational toppings! Needless to say I devoured my lamb and then started on my salmon. It was absolutely fabulous. I ate every last bite. Seriously.

We finished off the evening with a fabulous dessert table that each and every treat was #theperfectcomplement with Negra Modelo. It was an amazing night and I am so excited that Chef Rick is sharing the recipe here with you for Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa. So, you can all enjoy this masterful creation.

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With love from our simple kitchen to yours. 


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Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa

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

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.

In the stove top-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.

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.)

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.

Recipe courtesy of Negra Modelo and Chef Rick Bayless

Disclosure:  This post is Sponsored By Negra Modelo USA. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Enjoy responsibly!

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