Get Your Goat: The Other, Other Red Meat

July 5, 2011


It’s the world’s most popular meat, but you’d be hard-pressed to find it at Safeway. Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, authors of “Goat: Milk, Meat, Cheese” ($30, Stewart, Tabori & Chang), think this scrawny farm animal could become America’s healthy and sustainable alternative to beef. The new cookbook serves up more than 100 recipes plus tips for braising, roasting and grinding. Weinstein shares his thoughts on the Other Other Red Meat.

Why do you think goat is such a mystery in America?
Despite being the most widely eaten red meat in the rest of the world, North America never really took to it. Goat doesn’t lend itself easily to factory farming, so it’s not something that can be mass-produced, even though it’s popular elsewhere.

Is that why it’s considered healthy? No factory farming?
Goat is often locally raised, which is a health benefit. But it also doesn’t have the muscle mass that some other animals have, which in turn, makes it have less fat. It’s a skinny animal. It’s lower in fat than chicken and beef. Most goats are fed grass, which is what they’re meant to be eating, not corn, so there’s innate nutrition in the meat.

Why do you think some people have an aversion to eating it?
Mark and I like to call it the “cruise effect.” If you’ve been in a cruise to the Caribbean, you’ve tried goat. In the Caribbean, the goat they serve can be really gamey to stand up to the spicy flavors. But the goat meat you get here is so mild. It’s not even as strongly flavored as lamb, and I think people don’t expect that. They’re shocked.


What about the people who haven’t tried it?
Well, sometimes they just think it’s going to be strong or they don’t know what to expect. But whenever we serve goat, people are surprised at how mild and sweet it is.

So, is that the dominant characteristic? It’s sweet?
I always say it’s a cross between dark meat, turkey and pork. It has a distinct flavor. It’s not tasteless, and certainly not a boneless, skinless chicken breast. But it doesn’t have that overpowering barnyard flavor that goat milk can have, either.

So those who don’t like goat milk could actually like the meat?
Yes, surprisingly, it’s a completely different animal. Dairy goats are not meat goats. If you’ve had goat meat and didn’t like it, it’s possible you were fed a dairy goat. You wouldn’t want to eat an old dairy cow. It wouldn’t be a good steak. It would be stringy and tough, and it’s the same for goat.

Do you have tips for cooking goat?
You have to think low and slow. It’s best when braised or roasted at very low temperatures. Yesterday, I put a whole goat on the grill at 275 degrees and it was on there for six hours. There are so many ways to prepare it. I love to take the leg and roast it slowly for seven hours so it’s falling off the bone.

Recipe File: Braised Meatballs with Artichokes and Fennel

Ingredients
1 pound ground goat
1 large egg white
3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
2 medium shallots, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon salt, halved and used in two places in the recipe
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, halved, same as with the salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large fennel bulb, any stems and fronds removed, the tough root end sliced off and discarded, then the bulb itself chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 pound fresh baby artichokes, trimmed; or one 12-ounce package whole or quartered frozen baby artichokes (no need to thaw)
1 1/3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tomato paste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Makes Four to Six Servings

1. Mix the ground meat, egg white, bread crumbs, shallots, oregano, dill, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pepper in a medium
bowl until uniform — that is, until the spices are spread evenly throughout; the bread crumbs, too; and the egg white is no longer visible as a scummy film. Form this mixture into 12 golf balls.

2. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Meanwhile, spread the flour on a plate. Swirl the oil into the pot, then roll half the balls in the flour. Put them in the pot and brown on all sides. (OK, geometry teachers, balls don’t have sides. But you know what we mean.) About 7 minutes will do it. Transfer them to a plate and repeat with the remaining balls.

3. Dump the onion, fennel, tomato, and artichokes into the pot. Stir over the heat until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes.

4. Pour in the broth; stir in the tomato paste, lemon juice, cinnamon, the remaining teaspoon salt, and the remaining teaspoon pepper. As the mixture begins to simmer, make sure you scrape up any browned bits in the pot. Then tuck the meatballs into the simmering sauce and pour any juices on their plate over everything. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer slowly for 1 hour.

Photo by Marcus Nilsson

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.
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