Get Your Goat On

Who would have thought? Goat meat is becoming a gourmet meat in the United States.

After years of celebrating boutique meats such as Berkshire pork and heritage turkey, chefs have fallen hard for another protein. Goat has been embraced everywhere from sustainability-focused restaurants like Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and Blue Hill in New York to “Top Chef” winner Stephanie Izard’s Chicago spot Girl and the Goat. The meat has become so popular among chefs that many now complain about not being able to source enough of it, as Katy McLaughlin writes in The Wall Street Journal.

A mainstay in Jamaican, Mexican and Arab cuisine, goat can seem like the ultimate mystery meat for American home cooks. For all our love of goat cheese and our growing interest in goat yogurt and butter, we still think of goats as cute little horned creatures with stubborn personalities. It’s just not part of our food culture.

Katy McLaughlin on Lunch Break has a home cook’s guide to buying, prepping and cooking goat, the meat of the moment.

Anyone who loves red meat but has become bored with beef and lamb would be remiss not to give goat a try. It is healthy, hearty meat, with a third fewer calories than beef and half the saturated fat of chicken. It is also delicious, with a flavor often described as being close to veal and lamb. “It’s like a cross between dark-meat turkey and pork,” said Mark Scarbrough, co-author of the cookbook “Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese,” which came out last year. “It’s more savory and has a richness and deep complexity.”

Given its firm texture, goat is particularly wonderful when cooked in a moist-roasting style, where it softens and infuses the pan juices with its robust taste.

If the name of the meat is just too “Three Billy Goats Gruff” for you, call it “capretto” (Italian for “kid”), like chef Scott Conant does at his five Scarpetta restaurants, where he serves it whenever he can find a good supply of extra-tender, young goat.

Rancher Bill Niman, who started Niman Ranch, a boutique meat company with which he’s no longer involved, said that goat is not only fantastic tasting, but a great environmental choice because goats thrive on pasture that cows don’t like—”so it’s complementary to cattle ranching.”

Very young, very tender goat lends itself to pretty much any preparation that would suit beef or lamb. Steven Rojas at Chez Papa Resto in San Francisco makes a silken “pancetta” from goat meat. He serves it thinly sliced over arugula and hazelnuts. Girl and the Goat’s menu features an array of goat preparations, among them mousse, belly, carpaccio, smoked goat and roast leg.

“Very young, very tender goat lends itself to pretty much any preparation that would suit beef or lamb. ”

If you want to cook goat at home, the first challenge is sourcing the meat. Whole Foods carries young goat in the Atlanta, North Carolina, San Francisco Bay and Washington, D.C., areas and plans to expand to more regions by the end of the summer. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the meat at a local farm or farmers’ market, or you’ll locate a butcher who can special-order it for you. It can also be found online through some boutique meat sellers, though at a steep premium. Most big cities also stock goat meat in ethnic grocery stores, such as halal, Mexican, Indian and Greek markets.

Paul Canales began working with goat in 1999 while chef at Oakland’s Oliveto. In the early years, he sometimes landed older and tougher animals, he said, though later he began getting excellent meat from small-scale local farms. Now that he is “a civilian,” (Mr. Canales is currently setting up his own restaurant), he buys goat for his family from a halal market in Oakland. “They have amazing goat, and it’s like $5 a pound,” Mr. Canales said. He injects the leg with a red-wine-and-honey marinade and roasts it, makes medallions out of the leg and sautés them, and also moist-roasts goat shoulders.

Spike Mendelsohn, the chef behind Washington, D.C., restaurants Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza, said he used to buy goat from Greek butcher shops in Queens, when he lived in New York. His Greek family has a long tradition of spit-roasting marinated goat leg. He likes to make stock from the bones.

There is, however, a complication with buying goat in ethnic grocery stores: You need to ask the right questions. Just over 40% of U.S. goats are raised specifically for their meat, according to the Department of Agriculture. Another 10% percent are dairy goats. The best-tasting breeds that are typically bred for meat are Boer, Spanish and Kiko, said Mr. Niman, the rancher. The remaining half of the country’s goats, which are bred and raised for other purposes, including work as brush-clearers, can end up behind the butcher glass.

Goats bred for milk or their janitorial talents may be slaughtered when they’re older, which yields meat that can be tough and gamey.

If you can’t locate the platonic ideal of goat meat, you can “tame” stronger-flavored cuts with a long bath in wine, olive oil and aromatics, plus a little salt, Mr. Canales said. He’ll leave a gamey piece of goat in this brew for about five days, allowing natural enzymatic action to tenderize the meat, while the marinade keeps bad bacteria at bay. The next step is to subject the meat to a long, slow cooking process.

The last important factor to cooking goat is maintaining the right mindset. “Instead of trying to hide it, you really want to celebrate the flavor,” Ms. Izard said.

For the original report, instructions on how to select goat meat, and recipes go to http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204573704577186761872201948.html

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