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How to Make Better Barbacoa

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I’ll lead with this: “It’s tender enough to gently stroke a dead kitten back to life, with flavor like a cow eating another cow while wearing leather.”

Intrigued? Kenji from the Food Lab at Serious Eats is talking about barbacoa, and if there was ever a metaphor that could motivate me to spend hours slow-braising beef shoulder, this is it.

Traditional Mexican barbacoa involves whole sheep, slow-cooked in maguey leaf-covered pits; I’m not sure I could find the time (or the pits) for that on an average Wednesday, but this less traditional version, scented with cumin and chipotle, is no less delicious. The thoroughly-tested recipe doesn’t cut corners, either. It uses three different kinds of chiles, two different cuts of beef, and a spice blend to end all spice blends. But don’t worry, Serious Eats breaks it all down for us, ingredient by ingredient.

The Food Lab: How to Make Beef Barbacoa Better Than Chipotle's from Serious Eats

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over 3 years ago zindc

It's not that hard to make a more traditional barbacoa de cabrito, with goat leg wrapped in banana leaves, which is head and shoulders above beef chuck in terms of deliciousness. The best place to find goat meat is at a halal butcher, and banana leaves are commonly sold at Latin and Asian markets.

Rick Bayless teaches a much more traditional method for making adobo, recados (spice paste marinades) and cooked salsas of all kinds than does Señor Alt. Roast or broil the onion, garlic, tomato, tomatillos in a hot oven until the veg are browned and then put them in the blender with toasted, soaked chiles, roasted and peeled poblano, cider vinegar, lime juice and cumin, oregano, cilantro, etc. When pureed, transfer to a saucepan and simmer for at least a half hour, stirring frequently, until thickened. When the adobo has cooled, slather the meat (let it sit for a while in the refrigerator, if possible). Lay out a sheet of heavy foil, lay rinsed banana leaves on top (I also lay on some avocado leaves, which add an anise-y flavor) then put the meat in the center, cover with more banana leaf and another sheet of foil and roll up the edges, making a sealed packet. Bake in a slow oven (225-250f.) for four or 5 hours.