Braised Birria-Style Lamb with Crispy Polenta

  • Prep time 48Min
  • Cook time 4Hr
  • Technique
  • Meat Lamb
  • Cut Leg
  • Serves 10

Recipe courtesy Chef Juan Serrano, Paul Martin’s American Grill



  • As needed olive oil
  • 2 oz arbol peppers, sliced
  • 5 oz cascabel peppers, sliced
  • 5 oz pasilla peppers, sliced
  • 1 ea onion, cut into fourths
  • 8 ea garlic cloves

Braised Lamb:

  • 5 lb boneless Australian leg of lamb, cut in 8-oz portions
  • 1 ea onion, diced
  • 1 ea carrot, diced
  • 2 ea celery stalks, diced
  • 5 ea bay leaves
  • 2 ea cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 5 ea thyme stems

Crispy Polenta:

  • 4 c water
  • 1 c polenta
  • As needed black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan
  • 1 green bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 jalapeno, small dice


  • 1 c red wine vinegar
  • 1 c water
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 ea onion, slivered
  • As needed kosher salt


  • As needed radishes, thinly sliced
  • As needed cilantro leaves


For the Sauce:

  1. In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Pan-fry the peppers in batches until tender, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Remove to a hotel pan or pan lined with paper towels.
  2. In the same pan, saute the onion and garlic until they have softened. Be careful not to let garlic burn.
  3. Transfer the peppers, onion, and garlic to a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and remove vegetables to a blender.
  4. Blend vegetables, adding 2 c of the cooking water to make a smooth sauce. Add more water as needed for consistency.
  5. Strain the sauce into an 8-qt container. Cover and refrigerate.

For the Braised Lamb:

  1. In a hotel pan, rub the lamb portions with about one-third of the sauce. Rub them all over, making sure they are well marinated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hr.
  2. To cook lamb, add onion, carrot, and celery mirepoix to a deep hotel pan. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, and thyme. Put the lamb on top and cover with the remaining sauce. Cover the pan with foil and place it in a 235°F oven with fan #3 for about 4 hours, until very tender.
  3. Remove the lamb and hold it warm for service. Strain the sauce and hold it warm for service.

For the Crispy Polenta:

  1. Bring the water to a boil.
  2. Whisk in the polenta and pepper. Cook, stirring, until thickened.
  3. Stir in the Parmesan and peppers. Pour the polenta onto a buttered half sheet pan. Refrigerate for 3 hours.
  4. Cut the polenta into 10 squares.

For the Curtido:

  1. In a container, combine the vinegar, water, oregano, and onion. Generously salt them and cover.
  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then drain and hold.

For Plating and Garnish:

  1. To plate, flash fry one portion of polenta at 375°F for 15 to 20 seconds to crisp the exterior.
  2. Place it on a plate and top with a warm portion of braised Australian lamb.
  3. Ladle 4 oz warm sauce around the lamb.
  4. Garnish the plate with sliced radishes and cilantro.
  5. Garnish the lamb with some of the Curtido.