Barbacoa de Cordero

Lamb shoulder, Carribean pit-roast style

(Contributed by Garry Vroegh <>)

Ingredients Directions
  • 3-pound lamb shoulder
  • 6 medium dried chiles
  • 2½ Tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ½ cinnamon stick (½ teaspoon ground)
  • 3 cloves (or a big pinch of ground)
  • ½ teaspoon black-peppercorns (½ teaspoon freshly ground)
  • ½ medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 gloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt (divided between the marinade and steaming liquid)
  • 15 avocado leaves*

* If unavailable, use lettuce leaves and 20 bay leaves and add ½ teaspoon of aniseed to the steaming water, Be sure to strain the seeds out of the broth before serving,

The Chile Paste

Stem the chiles, break them open, discard the seeds and remove the veins, saving them for later. Chop the chiles into small flat pieces.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat then toast the chiles a few pieces at a time, pressing them firmly against the hot surface with a metal spatula until they crackle and change color, then flip them over and toast the other side.

Cover them with boiling water, and weight them down with a plate to keep them submerged and soak for 30 minutes.

Now toast the sesame seeds on the skillet, stirring them for several minutes until a golden color. Scrape them into a blender jar. Toast the chile veins for only a few seconds and add them to the sesame seeds.

Pulverize the spices in a mortar or spice grinder and add them to the blender along with the onion, garlic, vinegar and &rac12; cup of water.

Drain the chiles, and stir them into the blender. Blend until smooth, stirring and scraping down the mixture several times. (Add a little more water only if absolutely necessary.) Strain the thick mixture through a medium mesh sieve.

Heat the oil in a medium-size sauce pan on medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the chile purée all at once and stir constantly for about 5 minutes, until very thick and dark. Season with about ½ teaspoon of salt and set aside to cool.


Place the lamb in an non-reactive bowl. Scrape in the chile paste and mix thoroughly. Cover, and refrigerate to marinade overnight.

Steaming the Lamb

Measure 3 cups of water into the bottom of a Dutch pot and place a steamer rack in the pot. Place the avocado (or lettuce-bay leaf mix) in a single layer on the steamer rack.

Lay the lamb over the leaves, and daub any remaining marinade on top of the lamb. Cover with the remaining leaves.

Cover and steam over medium to medium-low heat for about 3 hours, watching carefully that the liquid does not boil away.

Bone the cooked meat, leaving it in large pieces.

Finishing the Barbacoa Lamb

Remove the leaves and the steamer rack. Then add the leaves to the liquid. Boil over high heat until the liquid is reduced to 2 cups, and remove from the heat, skimming off any fat that has accumulated. Salt to taste. Put the boned lamb back into the broth and simmer for a few minutes, turn the pieces and simmer another minute until the marinade has dissolved into the broth.

Serve in deep plates or bowls, and spoon the broth over the meat. Accompany with rice, beans, and/or lentils to make a one-bowl meal.

Note: To make an excellent meat for shredding for tacos, or to wrap into soft tortillas, don't cut the lamb into large pieces; shred it instead, using a fork, and then follow the finishing procedures.

Return to Sheep's Creek Farm Lamb Recipes page.

© 1998 Ronald Florence
Last modified: Sun Nov 8 11:09:25 EST 1998