Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Meet my new shoulder of goat. My new beginning in meatiness.
We don't do much meat around our house, and as of today, I haven't done much meat around this blog either. The last time I mentioned meat, actually, I did not give a recipe, because the meal was (aside from taste and texture) a disaster. That incident scared me away from meat making for almost ten months.
Then last weekend I found myself in front a meat list at the farmers' market. There were the usual temptations--sausage, minced lamb, and bacon, but then the Goat heading caught my eye. Underneath it there were but two options for sale, one I don't remember, and the other, was the 'priced to sell' shoulder.
I had no idea what this meant. My thought was that it was simply the location of the meat. You know, goat meat from the shoulder region. After quite a few minutes of questions, deliberation, and untidy excitement, I told the man (who was giggling at my indecision and obvious inexperience) I would take 'some shoulder,' maybe a pound? This added to his amusement. There is one left, he said. One whole shoulder.
It is nine pounds.
Oh. Oh, well, sure. It's time.
It is time, I decided, for me and my meat-eating self to get out of my meatless rut, and out of the boneless, skinless roots from whence I come. I eat meat, but then, I really don't eat any meat. If I make meat it is usually bacon, or sausage (from varying animals), or hamburger. This is all a rarity though. I just get so overwhelmed because I don't know what to do with it--how to prepare it, how to cut it, how to deal with the leftovers. I am really much better at acting vegetarian. Beans, I get. Dairy, I get. Meat...you have to wash your hands! You have to brown it, cook it long enough, but not too long. You have to be that much more conscious because the food had eye-lashes at one point.
See? Are you pondering becoming vegetarian now (again)?
But I do want to be able to eat meat and prepare it too. And I want to be able to contend with a nine pound shoulder of goat. If I want to have that hoped-for farm with chickens to slaughter and lambs to raise, if I want to somehow be able to handle all the harsh reality of bones and baa's and blood that raising meat includes, then I think I better start now with a wee hunk of goat.
So, I bought the goat. I contended with that nine pound monstrosity, and I made the most amazing goat curry, like ever. The photograph is terrible, but it shows what is important, a dark, simmered down curry that is spiced and looks like it must be full of flavor. Oh, don't worry, it is.
I have had goat once before, at an Ethiopian restaurant in Vancouver, and it was so tasty, so distinctively goat, not lamb-y like lamb, or beef-y like beef, but goat, that I've kind of been dreaming of getting a goat like some people get half a cow. It is that good.
All my fears of not liking goat as much this time around have subsided, and my enthusiasm is playing well into the farm plan. Because, for some reason, I think I don't like sheep. As animals, as future dinners, as barn decor, I am not whisked away to a barnyard romance with them (unless they are more purely for wool...that is a completely different story...that is totally possible). And as I have said before, cows are huge, and don't seem to be a beginner's animal. But the goat! Such possibilities await there. They are somehow smarter and more lovely than a sheep. I always think of the movie Cold Mountain with Jude Law, Renee Zellweger, and Nicole Kidman. In one scene, Law is staying with a woman who has goats, and she tells him that goats are the perfect animals--they are good companions and give sweet milk. She is caressing a beautiful white goat as she talks to Law, and while she adds that they make good stew too, she slits the goats throat in one, unfaltering, emotionless movement.
I don't know why I love that scene so much. I was more than horrified by it, but I was also awed, because it touched on the harshness of eating meat, and the proximity I for some reason would rather live with than without.
So I have begun. I cut off the easily accessible meat from the shoulder for this first curried meal, and at the suggestion of the meat man, packaged up the rest--the back ribs and the blade--for later use. I depended on the inspiring Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's description and recipe in The River Cottage Meat Book on the shoulder region for goat (or lamb), and he definitely came through. I highly recommend this gorgeous, large book. The photography by Simon Wheeler is exquisite, and Mr. F-W is thorough but delightfully simple, with his bullet-point Meat Manifesto and animal diagrams. He has almost convinced me that I desperately need to spit-roast something in the not-so-distant future. I mean really, if the man (and the book) can make a whole roasted pig sprawled out on a table look not horrifying but appealing, it has to be good.
Curry Goat (adapted from The River Cottage Meat Book)
If you find yourself without a source for goat in your immediate vicinity, lamb can be easily substituted. Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests the use of mutton, not young lamb especially, and he likes the cheaper stewing cuts--scrag end, neck chops, and/or shoulder. He likes to leave the chops and scrag on the bone. Also, the biggest change I made to his recipe is the wine...his has none, but I had a bottle I didn't want to drink, and it was fabulous, even if not so traditional.
1 pound goat meat
3 garlic cloves
2 onions, finely chopped
1-2 habenaro chillies
a few good sprigs of thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
a good bunch of cilantro
4-8 tablespoons butter
1/2-full bottle red wine
Jamaican Curry Blend:
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
12 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
To prepare the curry blend, dry-roast the first five spices by tossing them for a couple of minutes in a hot, dry frying pan, then grind in a coffee or spice grinder (or mortal and pestle). Mix with the ginger and turmeric.
Cut the goat into good-sized chunks, more like slices than cubes, trimming off only the really excessive fat.
In a large bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the spice mix with the tomatoes, garlic, onions, and chillies. Strip the thyme leaves off their stalks, bruise with a knife blade and add to the bowl. Finely chop the stalks of the cilantro (set aside the leaves for adding to the curry at the end) and add them too.
Add the meat to the marinade, rubbing the marinade in well with your fingers. Spend some time doing this. Enjoy it. It smells good. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight, or (like me) longer.
Remove the meat from the seasoning, knocking off any loose bits of onion or tomato (these will be fried separately later). In a large pan, fry the meat in the butter until it is nicely browned. You'll need to do this in at least 2 batches. Transfer to a large casserole dish. Then fry the seasoning that you've just taken the meat out of--everything that's left in the bowl--until the onions are softened. Add to the meat in the pot. Deglaze the pan with some wine and add these juices, along with enough extra wine (or water) just to cover the meat. Add a teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil, then turn it down to the gentlest possible simmer. Transfer to a very low oven (about 250 degrees Fahrenheit), until the meat is very tender, about 2-3 hours. Serve sprinkled with the chopped cilantro leaves, accompanied by plain rice and (he suggests) fried plantains, plus mango chutney or other Jamaican pickles, or (I tried and suggest) butter sauteed dark greens such as collard or kale. Enjoy!