Thursday, January 10, 2013

Meat in Mexico: Lamb

                                                                                                                                                If you're looking for the spreadsheet of PORK LABELS, click here!

It’s time to get back into our “Meat in Mexico” series! With information in the Aztec Newsletter and here on my blog, I will continue to help you decipher confusing meat labels and restaurant menus, and figure out how to enjoy (or avoid) all the various types of meat available in Mexico. This week, we’ll be talking about lamb.  Click here to download or print this diagram.

A couple of things I’ve noticed about Lamb in Mexico:
·         Names for lamb include cordero, carnero (usually indicating an older sheep—“lamb” by definition is under one year old), as well as borrego and oveja (usually used when referring to the animal as opposed to the meat).
·         One of the most popular cuts of lamb in Mexico is the shoulder roast. This cut is best braised, whether whole (for barbacoa, see below), or stews (“guisados”). You might also find lamb brochetas (kabobs) cut from the shoulder.
·         One of the most popular uses of lamb in Central Mexico is for barbacoa. Barbacoa is meat wrapped in banana leaves and cooked for a very long time until extremely tender. (In the north, it is more common to find barbacoa made from beef or goat, and in the Yucatan it is more common to find barbacoa made from pork and referred to as “cochinita pibil”.)  Check out the amazing recipe below from Pati Jinich for traditional Barbacoa en Adobo!
·         Other than small cuts, I have only ever seen lamb leg and rack of lamb available at grocery stores.  A larger variety of large cuts of lamb are available at Costco (including boneless cuts), or you can ask the butcher at the grocery store to have something cut for you. Ask for the particular cut “en trozo” and specify how many kilograms you want. Be aware, you might have to special order these cuts in advance.

Here is the spreadsheet of all the various lamb labels I have found here in Mexico.  Click here to download and print this spreadsheet.

COMMON LABELS FOR LAMB/CORDERO                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  by Alaina Missbach,
Label Price per Kilo Translation American Equivalent Cooking Method Traditional American Dish Traditional Mexican Dish
Brochetas   (sing.) skewer (plur.) kebabs Meat for Lamb kabobs, most often cut from the shoulder (espaldilla) Marinate and Grill or Braise Lamb Kabobs or Stew Mixiotes de Carnero (Spiced Lamb in Maguey Leaves), a specialty of central Mexico
Chamberete or Caña   Shank Lamb Shank Braise Osso Bucco Braised in Soups
Chuleta   Chop Lamb Chop (cut from the ribs, quite lean) Roast, Sauté or Grill Lamb Chops Lamb Chops
Chuletas de Espaldilla   Chops of the Shoulder Blade Chops Braise Braised Lamb Braised Lamb
Chuletas de Lomos Cargados   Loin Chops Lamb Loin Chops (cut from the loin, lean and tender) Roast, Sauté or Grill Lamb Loin Chops Lamb Loin Chops
Costillitas   Little Ribs Lamb Riblets Roast or Grill Can be used any way you would use pork spareribs, but are smaller Same
Espaldilla $115MXP Shoulder Lamb Shoulder Roast Braise or Marinate and Saute Shoulder Roast or Shoulder Chops (which must be marinated prior to cooking) Barbacoa
Lomos Cargados en Trozo   Whole Loin Loin Roast Roast Loin Roast Loin
Manteca   Fat Rendered Lamb Fat,                       or lard (from pigs) Used as a replacement for fat (oil, butter, etc.) in cooking for better flavor Could be used to make Lamb Confit Pork Manteca is more popular, but Mexican cooks use all types of manteca to subsitute for other fats
Pechito   Little Breast Lamb Breast, although not usually found Roast or Braise None Roasted Breast of Lamb
Pierna $175 MXP Leg Leg of Lamb Roast Roast of Lamb Barbacoa or Pierna de Cordero a la Parilla, which is a specialty of Chihuahua (leg rubbed with garlic, herb and chile paste before grilling)
Pierna deshebrada   Shredded Leg None, not usually found Usually pre-cooked, only need to reheat n/a Used any way you would use shredded pork
"Rack de Cordero"; Chuleta en Trozo (sometimes labeled "Frances" which means the rib bones have been "frenched")   Rack of Lamb Rack of Lamb (Crown Roast, Rib Roast) Roast Crown Rack/Roast of Lamb, for which it's imperative to have the ribs "Frenched", meaning extra skin and sinew have been removed Not usually used whole in traditional Mexican cooking
Rebanadas de Pescuezo   Slices of Neck None, not usually found Braise n/a Used to flavor stews and soups

Finally, here is Pati Jinich's recipe for traditional Barbacoa en Adobo.  I can't wait to try it!  Pati is not only the host of "Pati's Mexican Table" on PBS, but also the chef for the Mexican Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.  She is a native Mexican, and not only cooks for the Cultural Center's important events but also offers AMAZING courses there in D.C.  I was fortunate enough to attend one, and she's amazing!  You can check out her website here.  Hope you enjoy this recipe!

Serves 12
Pati's Barbacoa
For the Marinade
10 dried guajillo chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
10 dried ancho chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
5 cups water
1/3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 medium Roma tomato, cut into quarters
1/2 medium white onion, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 whole cloves, stems removed
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil
For the vegetable base
2 medium white onions, coarsely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into chunks
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, peeler and cut into large cubes
8 ounces dried garbanzo bean, soaked overnight in 3 cups of very hot water, then drained
12 ounces (1 bottle) light colored beer, such as Corona
3 cups water
bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
For the meat
8 pounds bone-in leg and shoulder of lamb (or a leg or a shoulder)
1 pound banana leaves
5 to 6 fresh or dried avocado leaves (optional)
For assembly
lime wedges, for serving
warmed corn tortillas
For the marinade: heat a large, dry skillet over medium heat. Add the dired chile peppers and toast them for no more than 20 seconds per side, taking care not to burn them.
Transfer them to a medium saucepan and add the water, place over medium heat and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the peppers have softened and rehydrated.
Transfer the peppers to a blender. Add 2 cups of their cooking liguid (discard the remaining liquid), the vinegar, tomato, onion, garlic, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, cloves (stems removed) and salt; puree until smooth.
Wipe out the medium saucepan and add the oil. Place over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the pureed marinade, being careful to avoid any splatters. Partially cover, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the color darkens and the mixture thickens to a pastelike consistency.
Rinse the lamb and pat dry with paper towels. Place in in a large, nonreactive dish. Use the marinade to cover it completely, rubbing the mixture into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
Just before the lamb is finished marinating, prepare the vegetable base. Have a large roasting pan at hand with a rack that fits inside, preferable with some space underneather. remove the lamb from the refriegerator about 20 minutes before you place it in the over.
Combine the onions, carrots, potatoes, and soaked and drained garbanzo beans in a large raosting pan. Pour the beer and water over the top. Add the bay leaves and season with salt to taste; toss to combine. Place the roasting rack over the mixture.
For the meat: Preheat the over to 325 degrees.
Unfold the banana leaves and arrange a few layers of them on the roasting rack, leaving a generous amound of overlap on the pan long sides for wrapping the meat (alternatively, you may use a few long pieces of aluminum foil). Place the meat on top of the leaves and use all of the marinade to cover it. PLace the avocado leaves, if using, on top of the meat, then fold the leaves over to cover the meat. If using the foil, poke a few small holes near the bottong edges to allow the meats juices to fall into the vegetable base below during cooking. The juices will natually fall through the spaces between the banana leaves.
Cover the banana leaf package or foil package tightly with a layer of foil. Slow-roast for 8 to 10 hours; until the meat comes off the bone easily and the vegetables should be well seasoned and tender. Transfer to the stovetop (off of the heat), and let everything rest for 15 to 20 minutes before opening the package. Discard the avocado leaves, if using.
For assembly; Serve with lime wedges, warmed corn tortilla and a salsa you like.

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