We recently butchered our last two goat kids of 2014, and we’ve designated one of them for a bloggable project in the tongue-to-tail cooking genre. I’m taking responsibility for preparing one whole goat, cooking it in many different ways to practice as many different meat-cooking techniques as possible to compensate for the fact that I’ve never really learned how to cook meat.
Eric & I are both avid cooks, but we tend to specialize somewhat in the kitchen. For example, he’s the soup expert. I make bread. He makes Bayless-style pepper sauces. I nixtamalize corn. He makes some kinds of cheese. I make other kinds of cheese. He cans tomatoes. I make pizza. And on and on. When it comes to meat, though, he does it all.
The division of labor that has given Eric the meat cooking duties is in part an outcome of my vegetarianism during post-college years, a formative time for my cooking habits and skills. I helped brown plenty of taco meat growing up, but the intricacies of meat cooking are not something I’ve studied or practiced. When we started to harvest meat from our farm, my omnivory happily resumed, but my kitchen skills never caught up. I’ve always been an active participant in the butchering activities, with the slightly odd outcome that I’m now more experienced at harvesting chicken gizzards, extracting kid tongues, and cleaning out pig intestines than I am at simply cooking most pieces of meat.
It is time for that to change.
Here are the goals for this project:
1) To make use of as much of the animal as practical, pushing our comfort zone regarding what parts are edible & useful. We’ll find out if we can stomach stomach.
2) To practice many different cooking techniques, such as boiling, braising, grilling, pan frying, pot-roasting, dry roasting, sauteing, smoking, stir frying, sauteing. I’m going to leave out sausage making, since that requires pork fat, and I’m going to be a goat purist for this project. I’ll also leave out a couple techniques that are typically done with a whole goat, such as pit roasting and spit roasting, on the grounds that Eric & I have done those before. That, and I’m envisioning a series that is longer than a single blog post that comes down to this: Put kid on stick. Add flames. Turn. Eat:
Early meat cooking by Joanna (November 2009).
3) To match appropriate cooking techniques with various parts of the animal. I want to learn how to decide what cooking technique is appropriate for which cut.
4) To practice a variety of ways of preparing the meat for cooking: breading, curing (maybe), dry rubbing, grinding, marinating, and pounding, for example.
5) To span a range of ethnic dishes. Our cookbook shelf includes African, Asian, Filipino, French, German, Indian, Iraqi, Italian, and Mexican cookbooks, among others, and the library has plenty more diversity. Most of these cuisines traditionally use goat. Some of these books even have recipes that actually call for goat despite being written for an American audience that isn’t very familiar with the animal.
6) To use the ingredients on hand (mostly what we’ve grown & preserved) and to demonstrate improvisational skills in the kitchen. Generally speaking, I’m not going to go buy exotic ingredients to make recipes. Being able to pick recipes to coincide with roughly what is on hand and then substituting or adapting the last 10% or so is a really useful skill for practical cooking & kitchen management.
7) To prepare a number of dishes that are based on vegetables with meat as an accent, rather than “meat & potatoes” meals that have a slab of meat and a side of potatoes and/or veggies. Sure, there will be some slabs of meat in the process of practicing the range of cooking techniques that I desire to learn. But I aspire to incorporate meat into my vegetarian cooking, rather than replacing it with meat-based cooking, or as Thomas Jefferson put it, to use meat “as a condiment for the vegetables which constitute my principal diet.”
8) To reasonably document and blog about the process in a somewhat timely fashion, and this includes working to improve my food photography skills.
Finally, perhaps this series will inspire others to expand their use of the world’s most popular meat, goat. Domestic goats are really wonderful animals, but domestic goats don’t exist unless there are farmers who raise goats, and to be economically successful, goat farms (of the meat or dairy variety) would benefit from a steady supply of customers who will pay good prices for goat meat. How about offering your goat farmer as much money as is spent by an average hunter to harvest a deer? After all, the results can be truly delicious. In a blind taste test between venison and goat at a tasting party we did years ago, the goat beat the venison hands down. No kidding.
Next up in the series: The life and death of a goat kid.