I Met Rick Bayless And Tasted His Lamb Barbacoa (And You Can, Too. . .Kind Of)

October 14, 2015
By Adam Lehrman

Recently I had the luxury of being invited to an exclusive event sponsored by Negra Modelo and featuring Rick Bayless. The event began with a private meet and greet with the chef including around 10 – 15 local bloggers and media, followed by a cooking demo by Rick Bayless featuring his Lamb Barbacoa (recipe below).

For one, Rick Bayless is one cool dude. And, fortunately, I was the only person to get the obligatory “me and Rick Bayless” selfie. And, I’m not even a selfie person.

Being that the event was sponsored by Negra Modelo, the beer flowed fast and furious. It also included some fancy glassware, cutting board, and – the star gift – a margarita, guac, and snack recipe book signed by Rick Bayless. Score.

The Negra Modelo flowed fast and furiously.
The Negra Modelo flowed fast and furiously.

While we did indeed get to try some of the Lamb Barbacoa in the form of a taco (it was delicious), the main dinner was an exorbitant amount of Mexican food buffet style, including fajitas, guacamole, rice, beans, salad, chicken, and dessert. Put it this way – my plate was full before making it halfway through the line.

If you’re interested in sampling Rick’s Lamb Barbacoa, check out the recipe below.

Rick Bayless’s Slow Cooker Lamb Barbacoa Recipe

Rick Bayless's Lamb Barbacoa
Rick Bayless’s Lamb Barbacoa

For the lamb:

  • 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
  • Salt

For the marinade:

  • 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

For serving:

  • Your favorite hot sauce or salsa
  • A little chopped white onion
  • A handful of cilantro leaves
  1. 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.
  2. In the stovetop-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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.

No slow cooker?

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.

This article is sponsored by Negra Modelo USA. For more information, visit NegraModeloUSA.com and follow @NegraModeloUSA on Twitter.

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