Up Your Taco Game With Fall-Off-the-Bone Lamb Barbacoa

Lamb barbacoa tacos
Lamb tacos with barbacoa.Chelsea Kyle

Want to take your taco game to a higher level? Swap steak or shrimp for lamb barbacoa, simmered low and slow. Yes, you read that correctly: lamb barbacoa tacos.

“Every part of Mexico has its own style of barbacoa,” says Mexico City chef Rodney Cusic, co-owner of Meroma, in the capital’s hip Roma neighborhood. “In Oaxaca, they wrap the lamb in plantain leaves; in Texcoco, they use maguey.”

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Fortunately, you don’t need tropical foliage (or an underground pit) to make delicious, falling-off-the-bone barbacoa. Parchment paper, a sturdy pot, and your stovetop work perfectly for an at-home version. At Meroma, Cusic makes it for a staff meal because it’s good for a crowd. A whole bone-in shoulder yields about four to six pounds of meat, so invite your friends. And serve it the traditional way—alongside a bowl of the rich, flavorful braising liquid, or consomme, loaded with chickpeas. “The possibilities,” Cusic says, “are endless.”

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  • For the adobo:
  • 2 dried guajillo chilies
  • 1 white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • For the lamb:
  • 1 bone-in lamb shoulder, 6–8 lbs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 white onions, cut in 6 pieces each
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 dried guajillo chilies
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns, toasted and cooled
  • Lamb or chicken stock to cover
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas
1. Make the adobo by soaking chilies in simmering water for 2 minutes. Strain chilies and place into blender with onion, tomatoes, and orange zest. Blend until smooth.
2. Season lamb with salt and pepper, then rub with adobo. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. After marinating, wrap meat in parchment paper and secure with butcher’s twine.
3. Add oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot and set over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, garlic, bay leaves, chilies, and peppercorns and saute 5 to 7 minutes. Place lamb on top of vegetables and add stock to cover meat halfway.
4. Lower heat to medium-low and bring stock to a simmer. Cover pot tightly. Simmer 3 to 4 hours. The lamb is ready when a cake tester can be inserted with no resistance.
5. Remove pot from heat and allow lamb to cool in its liquid. Remove and unwrap lamb. Shred meat and transfer to an airtight container. Strain the pot, reserving liquid and discarding vegetables. Ladle some liquid over the lamb to keep it moist. Add chickpeas to liquid and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with warm corn tortillas, lime wedges, chopped cilantro and white onion, and salsa, with warm chickpea soup alongside.