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Lamb Barbacoa

lamb barbacoa

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, preferably whole
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon sliced fresh habanero
  • 2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
  • 1/4 cup mezcal
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil, pasture-raised lard, or mild vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey

For the lamb

  • 4 pounds bone-in lamb pieces, preferably a mix of leg, shank, and neck
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or pasture-raised lard or mild vegetable oil, plus more for browning
  • 2 large white onions (about 1 lb), sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup mezcal
  • Water

Nutrition facts

Serves 8
Serv Serves 8
Serving Size: 1 portion
Calories Per Serving: 458
Serving Size: 1 portion

23% Total Fat 17.6g
Saturated Fat 4.6g
Trans Fat 0g
48% Cholesterol 144mg
86% Sodium 1987.7mg
5% Total Carbohydrate 13.5g
8% Dietary Fiber 2.2g
Sugars 7.3g
95% Protein 47.7g

Directions

Make the marinade

Using a mortar and pestle, mini food processor, or spice grinder, grind together the peppercorns, cumin, paprika, coriander seeds, onion powder, cinnamon, oregano, and salt until fragrant and the oils release, 10 to 15 seconds.

Add the garlic and sliced chiles and grind together with the spices until a chalky paste forms, about 1 minute more.

Using a wooden spoon, scrape the paste into a large bowl. Add the mustard, mezcal, oil, and honey and whisk until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

TIP: The fresh chiles in the marinade can be hard on your skin. We recommend donning a pair of disposable gloves before rubbing the lamb with the marinade.

Make the lamb

Add the lamb to the marinade or, if your bowl isn’t big enough to accommodate the lamb, place it on a large rimmed baking sheet. Use your hands to rub the marinade all over the meat, including any cracks or folds it might have.

Transfer the lamb to the fridge to rest, uncovered, for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. Bring the lamb to room temperature before cooking. Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C).

In a large ovenproof stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Working in batches, brown the marinated meat on all sides, 10 to 14 minutes. Once the meat has browned, transfer it to a large plate or baking sheet.

TIP: Those pesky chiles can also release some pesky particles during the browning process that can cause watery eyes and a few sneezes. Turn on your ventilation and consider opening a window (or two) to help clear the air.

Reduce the heat to medium, toss in the onions, and cook them in the pan drippings until soft and caramelized, 7 to 11 minutes.

Pour the mezcal into the onion mixture and use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot—this is where the flavor is! Once you’ve deglazed the pot and the liquid has reduced slightly, remove the pot from the heat.

Return the browned lamb to the pot along with the onions and mezcal. Add enough water so the pot is half full, probably 2 to 3 cups. Cover and place in the oven.

Roast until the lamb is falling off the bone and fork-tender, 4 to 5 hours. Remove from the oven and rest the lamb until cool enough to handle, at least 30 minutes.

Once the lamb has cooled, transfer it to a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and pull the meat from the bones. Toss any gristle or chunks of fat. Skim any fat from the surface of the braising liquid, if desired.

If serving the barbacoa as-is for tacos or to go with rice, you can return the meat to the pot with the onions and braising liquid and warm over low heat if needed. If serving the barbacoa as carnitas, slide the pan of meat beneath the broiler, turning the pieces as necessary, to create crisp edges.

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