Braising Billy: Making the Most of Rich Goat Meat
I’m no stranger to goat meat; been eating and cooking the stuff for years. A Trini friend showed me how to marinate the meat in green spice and burn sugar on the bottom of the pot for curry goat. Later, I spent a year reverse-engineering the excellent (and sadly no longer on the menu) sofrito-based cabrito guisado served at El Castillo de Jagua. I’ve proudly served goat to family and friends, including a few rock stars.
The goat meat available in supermarkets sometimes bears a suspicious resemblance to mutton (tough and fatty). It couldn’t be a bait and switch, could it? (Butcher friends hinted it might be in some cases). Those who want to be sure of getting goat instead of mutton labeled as goat are wise to buy from a butcher.
Heritage Foods got three goats for its opening last week. At $10/pound, it was a little pricey, but I went for it anyway, swept up in the excitement of a new business at the Essex Street Market. The meat was satisfying—among the best I’ve had. When they dropped their price to $8.75/pound, I bought some more, and had another meal of premium goat.
Heritage is not the only source for goat in the market, though: it’s also available at Luis Meats. They can’t trace the provenance of the meat the way the folks at Heritage can, but they sell it at nearly half the price.
If you’ve never thought of cooking goat at home, maybe it’s time you did. Yes, the meat is rich. Not an everyday indulgence; it’s something special. (Making it twice in one week was a bit much, but I work out with free weights regularly—I ain’t scared of a little richness). Two shoulder chops from Heritage fed four (with mashed potatoes and two vegetable side dishes). Yes, more rich meat would have been more fun, but that’s not how I eat these days. The powerhouse goat flavor made quarter-pound servings seem sensible, not overly austere. A pressure cooker made it quick to bang out on a weeknight; braising takes well over an hour.
I was all about simple preparation, because the meat looked so good. The only flourish I allowed myself was a little allspice, to add some interest. (I used 4 to 5 allspice berries ground in a spice grinder, which translates to about half a teaspoon of ground allspice).
Here’s what I did:
Season chops with salt and pepper. Fry a chopped onion in the bottom of a pot, sear meat, add allspice, then braise in a generous glass of wine (red Bordeaux is a nice choice) for an hour to an hour and a half. (Check as it cooks to see if it needs liquid.) It’s done when the meat falls off the bones. If you have a pressure cooker, use half a glass of wine, and the meat will be tender after about 20 minutes under pressure. Cut the meat into serving-size chunks and return to the liquid. You can thicken the cooking liquid with a little cornstarch and water if you prefer a thick gravy.
As for getting your goat fix already prepared, that used to be an easy recommendation: El Castillo de Jagua. Their goat stew was a favorite of mine. Both locations are still a great stop for a Cuban sandwich, but they no longer serve goat. That doesn’t mean no one in the neighborhood is cooking goat: Jesse from Brooklyn Taco tells me he’s planning to do goat tacos next week, possibly on Tuesday. For fans of goat meat, that will be worth checking out.
JP Bowersock is a professional musician and music producer who has toured the world repeatedly, eating at top restaurants and hole-in-the-wall joints. He is a serious home cook with over two decades’ experience cooking for family, friends and fellow rock ’n’ rollers. Bowersock keeps a toe in the wine business as well, consulting for the wine lists of several neighborhood establishments, including Clandestino, 35 Canal St. When not on tour or in the recording studio, he’s scouring the neighborhood for frugal food finds.