I’ve always considered myself an adventurous eater. I’m intrigued by any food that may be outside my usual comfort zone, particularly when it’s considered a delicacy by other cultures. When faced with something I consider “challenging” I always try at least a bite or two unless it’s something like larvae or crickets or 1000-year-old bird embryos, 'cause, well, that’s just gross. I’m taking goat off the challenging list, though, and am determined to give it a real chance. One good reason to do this? Goat is one of the most widely consumed meats in many cultures around the world. In Mexico, India, Greece, Korea, parts of southern Italy and in the Middle East, goat is prepared regularly. Goat has recently been showing up on restaurant menus here in the U.S. in food savvy cities from New York to Los Angeles.
Novelty is not the only consideration here. Goat meat is lower in fat than chicken, but higher in protein than beef. Those of us who consider ourselves health conscious carnivores might need to take this information to heart. Think “the other, other white meat.”
Knowing that similar animals might have similar results after cooking, I imagined treating goat as I would any other lower fat and flavorful cut of meat. That means braising using a copious amount of spice and a long wet cooking time, which will produce delicious results from any cut of meat. It’s a bubbling hot pool of flavor, after all.
I also decided I would ask an expert how to prepare a great dish. I went to visit my friend Chef Ramsey Hamden, owner of Joolz restaurant on Wall Street in downtown Bend. Hamden is a highly creative and innovative chef, and his Middle-Eastern background makes him a font of knowledge on this rather foreign protein. When I mentioned goat his eyes lit up, and he had plenty of advice for how to make this meat more accessible to those of us with little experience.
Then it was a matter of choosing a cut. In the Middle East people consider any grilled meat, like loin or chops, to be a luxury. Something like a braised shoulder of goat is far more economical and commonly used. Large pieces of meat are excellent candidates for braising, too. After determining to use a shoulder we were on to the details.
We both agreed fragrant spices such as cumin, cardamom, fennel and dried fruit would be a great accompaniment to the braising liquid, which would be based on a rich beef stock.
To cook the roast, get a heavy pan with a securely fitting lid. Season the meat with salt and pepper, sear in hot oil until browned, remove and set aside. Saute the usual mire piox ingredients like onions, carrots and celery, then return the roast to the pan along with the aromatics and a rich beef stock to almost cover.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cover with lid and stick it in the oven for about three hours, or until the meat is fall-apart tender.
Hamden suggested garnishing the finished dish with a Middle-Eastern “gremolata” of herbs and nuts like almonds, pistachios or pine nuts. Served with couscous or the more pasta-like Israeli couscous to soak up all the flavorful sauce, this would be a spectacular main dish.
He also suggested a garnish of tangy preserved lemo. It all sounds delicious and I’m definitely going to give it a try the next time I have some adventurous dinner guests over.