The deep flavor in this long-braised lamb dish belies the minimal labor it takes to make it. You don't even need to brown the lamb.
4 pounds lamb stew meat
1 white onion, chopped
3 each dried guajillo, ancho, and cascabel chiles*
6 large garlic cloves
9 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
About 1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 bay leaves
How to Make It
Cover lamb with cold water; squeeze in juice from 1/2 lime (adding rind) and add a few pieces of the chopped onion. Let sit, stirring every so often, until water is very pink and cloudy, about 10 minutes. Drain well, discarding the lime rind.
Meanwhile, toast chiles in a large frying pan over medium heat, turning as needed, until fragrant and starting to darken, 6 to 8 minutes; when cool enough to handle, remove stems. Put in a food processor with remaining onion, the garlic, cloves, thyme, cumin, vinegar, 1 1/2 cups broth, and the salt. Whirl together to make a thick sauce, adding a little more broth if needed.
Combine sauce with lamb and bay leaves in a large, wide dutch oven, mixing to coat and spreading evenly. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lamb is very tender when pierced, about 2 1/2 hours. Cut remaining 1 1/2 limes into wedges and serve on the side, along with Cilantro Rice.
HANDS-FREE METHOD: Once sauce and lamb are mixed in the dutch oven, bake about 3 hours in a 275° oven.
*Find the chiles in well-stocked Latino markets.
Wine pairing: Ceja 2009 Syrah. This pungent lamb needs a dark, meaty red wine. The Ceja Syrah has a matching earthy soul from its cool-weather vineyard site.
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Indeed a very easy version of birria. Flavors are great but think the dish is improved with three additonal steps. 1) After braising the lamb in the liquid, let the lamb cool in the liquid then remove the meat with a slotted spoon to a dish that can be sealed and refrigerated overnight. 2) Drain the solids out of the broth, toss the solids, return the broth to the pot and cover and chill overnight. 3) Next day, lift the fat off the broth, heat the broth (even reduce it a bit if you like), add the lamb back in to reheat. Braise flavors are intensified overnight, the clear broth is a better texture for birria and the reduced fat content is better too. I butchered a whole lamb shoulder to get the stew meat and shoulder has substantial fat in it. If you use leg for the stew meat, likely less fat but still enough that it is better with the fat layer removed from the broth.
I was unable to find dried Cascabel peppers substituted with New Mexican. Browned lamb before putting in dutch oven. Meat has a rich, subtle flavor great recipe for fall dinner party. Served with cilantro rice and roasted delicata squash with honey, pomegranate seeds and pepitas
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