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Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Hot Summer Day, Complete with Barbacoa

This weekend, we dug a hole, put stones into it, built a fire with two vents, placed a pot of food onto the fire, covered it with dirt, started another fire, and then eventually removed the pot of food to eat it. We hosted our first barbacoa, with the help of our great friend, Gaby and her family. 

Earlier this week, Andy went to the butcher to purchase a leg of lamb making several calls to find a vendor that could give him one with the bone, from a farm that matched our ideals. I learned that lamb (as that used for food) is a bit older than the little fuzzy ones I pictured in my mind when I heard the word. In fact, our leg of lamb was fourteen pounds! This purchase toyed with my super sensitivity concerning killing and eating animals (especially cute, furry baby ones), but I consoled myself, knowing (1) how much everyone involved would enjoy and learn from this experience and (2) from the fact that we knew the origins of the meat and held respect for the lamb's life.

Friday night,  the men dug a hole, three and a half feet deep, into our fire pit (while the women took pictures and chatted).

Then, they lined the hole with stones that would later act as insulators that would ensure even heat at the bottom of the pit.

We covered the pit with a tarp and tucked it in for the night.

Saturday afternoon: HOT and HUMID...did I mention no breeze and tons of mosquitoes? Perfect weather for day long fires, right? Even Skye, the dog was hot!
...but we carried on anyway!

Step one: start the fire to heat the stones and get the bottom of the pit hot.

As things were heating up, we dressed the food in preparation for the fire. It turns out that our leg of lamb wouldn't fit into the pot, so Andy had to cut it in half. Knowing that he is not a butcher and lacks the cutlery to properly dissect meat (and normally doesn't even deal with meat), you can guess how that went! He ended up using a hammer and a knife! Very barbaric.

We lined a colander with banana leaves. Then, put  a mixture of onion, potatoes, chickpeas, carrots, seasoning, garlic, bay leaves, whole grain rice, avocado leaves, and dried peppers into the colander. This was all placed into the pot. We added two cans of beer, some water, and the water which the chickpeas had soaked in the previous evening.

Then, we covered the colander with more banana leaves.

The leg of lamb went in next. Andy rubbed it with spices, salt, avocado leaves, and garlic. We also threw in extra garbanzo beans, onions, and garlic.

Next, another layer of banana went on top - essentially, the lamb was wrapped in banana leaves.

A damp cloth was needed to insulate the food. And then, fire-roasted maguey leaves were placed on top of that.

To reiterate, the layers went as follows:
1. beer/water
2. colander of veggies
3. banana leaves
4. meat
5. banana leaves
6. damp cloth
7. maguey leaves

Now, back to the fire pit!
Step two: Once the bottom of the pit had red coals, Andy added wood to create a platform onto which the pot would eventually rest. When the wood caught and sustained fire, he and Fernanda (Gaby's daughter) put the pot onto the platform.

Step three: Andy and I filled the pit and submerged the pot with earth, leaving room for vents on both sides.Once the pot was covered with about one to two inches, Andy constructed another fire on top.

The fire blazing on top was a signal for some cerveza, hibiscus tea, and some chisme. Despite the mosquitoes and heat, we all had a great time watching the fire. Every now and then, Andy used a leaf blower to ensure that the vents were getting enough oxygen to keep the fire going underneath the pot. Billowing, heavy smoke was a sure sign that things were still brewing beneath the soil.

About four to six hours (we lost track of time) later, Ishmael (Gaby's husband) and Andy pushed aside the coals on top to reveal the pot. The smell was amazing, even for me - the vegetarian.

Upon removal, to our surprise, we realized the fire was too hot and that we had melted a hole on the side of the pot, which released the consome (broth) onto the fire. The veggies and meat were still in-tact, unharmed, perfectly roasted.

Gaby and her crew, Andy, and I all hurried into the house in anticipation of the great food! Earlier in the day, Gaby and Fernanda had made salsa boracha (drunken salsa) - a delicious brew of roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, onions, garlic, dried chipotles, dried guajillos, and of course, the addition of a beer. Essentially, all veggies were roasted over a charcoal fire until browned. Then, we blended them all in the food processor. That sat until the barbacoa  was finished. We added the beer, and it was ready! It was fantastic (and it can be frozen for future use!).

Anyway, back to the story - Gaby led us through how to put this dinner together. She and  Fernanda heated up corn tortillas and cut limes. I poured the beer into the salsa and got the veggies ready. Andy got the meat ready - which was quite the easy task because it literally fell off the bone and was easily shredded with a fork.

The table was set and tacos were consumed! I ate veggie tacos, which consisted of a corn tortilla, the roasted veggies from the fire pit, cilantro, fresh onion, salsa boracha

One thing is for sure: the day was beyond wonderful. It was such a beautiful experience to have on a hot, summer day with good friends. We'll be doing this again, and hopefully next time, we'll actually get to taste the consome too!

...and, of course, thank you Baby Lamb. XOXO

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