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How To Use Lamb In Mexican Cuisine

Mexican cuisine is an explosion of aromatic, fragrant, and wonderful flavours. A combination of layered spices, tender meats, and rich stews, Mexican cuisine combines taste and texture in phenomenal ways resulting in beautifully-crafted, culturally-rich dishes.

The History of Mexico and Carnero

Lamb meat, here in this part of the world, it is not uncommon, needless to say, Mexico's history with lamb meat goes back thousands of years and spans several thousand miles. Known as the oldest domesticated animal in the world, sheep date their origins back between 9,000-10,000 years ago, roughly the same age as Mexican cuisine. However, lamb meat was not an ingredient used until Columbus' arrival in 1493.

Sheep were initially domesticated in Western Asia descending from a wild sheep ancestor known as the mouflon. They quickly began spreading west through Eastern and Western Europe, Cyprus and eventually the rest of the known world.

Sheep arrived in the Americas during Columbus' second voyage in 1493 and again when Cortes arrived with a flock in 1519. In fact, sheep ranching became a very successful business in Mexico, although the sheep were used mainly for food production and not wool.

Lamb Meat in Mexico: 101

Lamb, or Carnero, is red meat rich in protein, that comes from young domestic sheep or Cordero. Lamb meat is an excellent source of food that is packed with vitamins and minerals and contains varying amounts of healthy fats. In fact, while one ounce of lamb typically contains the same amount of calories as grass-fed beef, it also contains more omega-3 fatty acids.

Additionally, lamb meat is rich in iron, zinc and essential amino acids which helps with the body's growth and maintenance making this a great food for athletes, runners, and exercise enthusiasts.

Popular Mexican Dishes Made With Lamb

In Mexico, lamb is one of the most popular cuts of meat. In the central Mexican states of Tlaxcala, Puebla, and Hidalgo, lamb is the chosen meat for barbacoa. Barbacoa is a form of cooking in which meat is wrapped in banana leaves and then cooked in a deep pit for an extended period of time.

Traditionally, this dish is made by digging a pit in the ground and placing a large pot in the centre. After being wrapped in leaves, the meat is then placed over the pot and slow roasted for a number of hours. The pot underneath catches the drippings resulting in a delicious broth that is served as an appetizer to the rest of the meal.

Even more popular are the dishes mixiotes de Carnero, marinated lamb wrapped in leaf bundles and birria a spicy stew usually served at special occasions such as weddings and baptisms. Carnero molido, or ground lamb, is one of the most common ingredients in Lebanese dishes from immigrants who migrated to Mexico and their descendants.

The popularity of Mexican cuisine across the globe has brought plenty of different ingredients to the forefront of at-home cooking. In particular, the spices, chillies, and marinades that typically define Mexican dishes have created new flavour profiles and categories. From the use of adobo spices to smoky chipotle chillies and heated habanero peppers, Mexican cuisine never fails to engage the imagination.

Aside from fresh tortillas, ripe avocados and a multitude of chillies, tender cuts of meat cooked to perfection are the hallmarks of any Mexican dish. There are plenty of recipes using typical cuts of beef, pork, and chicken, but there is one meat in particular that reigns supreme is lamb meat.

As evidenced by its popularity all over the world, Mexican cuisine is a wonderful mixture of rich traditions, eclectic cultures and beautiful artistry that is full of memorable flavour. Whether it's patiently marinated lamb barbacoa or spicy, rich birria, it's little wonder that tender lamb meat is such an important ingredient in these amazing dishes.
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