Double-Fisted Dinner: Oaxacan Lamb Barbacoa

Double-Fisted Dinner:  Oaxacan Lamb Barbacoa


Let’s talk for a second about how I am horrible at roasting things.  Chicken, sure, I can do that. Veggies, no problem. But, whenever the task at hand is to roast an expensive cut of meat that you bought until it’s falling-off-the- bone done, I cannot. CANNOT. Figure. It. out.  I’ve even managed to overcook these fancy pants cuts in the slow cooker. Why God? WHY?!

This recipe is one of them. Lamb shoulder. Marinate, cover, oven for 3 hours.  Falling off the bone.

Not in my kitchen.


Mom’s rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound. That didn’t seem long enough for falling off the bone, so I cooked it longer.  Bad idea.

At about two hours I took it out and it looked sort of done, but it wasn’t yet falling off the bone. Consulting the internet, everything said 3 ½- 4 hours. So, I put the foil cover back on and let it rock for another hour.  The resultant cut of lamb shoulder was not falling off the bone (this was boneless, but the instructions seemed to be the same, time wise) and it was a bit dry. Pissed, I took it out, shook my fist at it and went to yoga.

Truth be told, it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t falling off the non-bone, but it was more along the lines of the big kebab you’d find at your local Greek kitchen.  I fixed my mistake (what mistake? I followed the instructions!) by merely reheating a bit in the soup broth and it came out just fine. But still, big picture here, why can’t I adequately roast things?!


However, if you can roast things, this is a recipe worth roasting. The part I loved about it was rather than, as per usual, using the pan drippings to make a gravy, this recipe prompted me to make a pan soup!  No joke.  The under-the-roasting rack had potatoes, carrots, garbanzos and garlic. It was also supposed to have onion, but whoopsy, I forgot to buy one. So, no onion.  All of the above was covered in water and sat collecting all of the goodness of the slightly overcooked but well-seasoned lamb.  Finished off with cilantro, salt and pepper, it may have been my favorite part of this whole ordeal. 



The soup is seriously so good, and I can’t wait to do the same thing with the OMG this chicken recipe.

If you’re thinking “crazy girl, your pan soup sounds greasy,” take heart. After leaving it alone for a little over an hour, all of the fat had pooled to the top and was easily removed.  

This meal is typically served soup in one hand, lamb taco in another hand. Double fisting, just how I like it.

The lamb marinade was easy too. Remember that red adobo sauce? Yup, just slather it on, and it’s one of the flavors that drips into the soup.  I’m telling you- just do it.

Again, another Rick-adapted recipe. He’s my main Mexican man.  I’m writing the recipe as he wrote it, but if you are skeptical about the amount of time it takes, go with Mom’s 20 minutes per pound.

Oaxacan Lamb Barbacoa
Serves 10
Adobo slow-roasted lamb and pan soup
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Total Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr
  1. 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into a 1” dice
  2. 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into a 1” dice
  3. 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  4. 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
  5. 1 TB oregano, preferably Mexican
  6. 1 large sprig cilantro, coarsely chopped
  7. 1 3-pound, rolled and tied boneless lamb shoulder roast (a bone-in shoulder roast is about 4 ½ pounds)
  8. 1 ½ cups Red Adobo Marinade
  9. 6-8 cups water, approximately
  10. Salt and pepper, to taste
  11. Tortillas, to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F.
  2. To a large roasting rack, combine the potatoes, carrots, garlic and garbanzos. Pour water into the pan about 2” from the top and nestle a V-shaped roasting rack into the watery vegetable mixture.
  3. Prep the meat by smearing the Adobo marinade all over the lamb, at least 1 cup. Lay the roast on top of the roasting rack. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil
  4. Cook until the lamb is fall-apart tender and a meat thermometer registers 170F, about 2 ½ hours. Periodically check to make sure the liquid level remains the same, and baste the lamb every hour or so.
  5. To finish the dish, remove the foil, sprinkle the lamb with salt and let rest at least 15 minutes. Break into chunks (or sloppily slice) the lamb, and loosely tent with foil to keep warm.
  6. Meanwhile, “with the precision of s steady-handed circus performer,” carefully remove the pan of soup from the oven. Skim the fat off the surface, add the cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Ladle into soup cups and serve.
  8. Pass the meat with extra adobo sauce and tortillas for tacos.
  1. You can add a chopped onion to the under the pan vegetables. I just forgot.
Adapted from Rick Bayless
Adapted from Rick Bayless
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World



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4 thoughts on “Double-Fisted Dinner: Oaxacan Lamb Barbacoa”

  • hmmmm, would it be because there is no bone? boned meat (and I’m giggling) takes longer to cook and has a built-in moisturizer (eww), yah? But you have the liquid in there. Strange. I’m a braised girl myself, sear the sucker then let it sit in a liquid for hours.

  • I giggled, too. Hehe. I think the problem was that this also wasn’t sitting in the liquid, but merely hanging over it. I really should have gone for the leg, but it was just SO much meat for moi. Also, didn’t sear, which I think was because I put this in the oven at like, 8 am, and forgot. Still, practice makes perfect, I suppose.

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