Cooking with kid: Shoulder #1, dry vs. moist heat

After a bit of an interlude due to some travel and other distractions, I’m returning to the (goat) kid cooking series. Readers who are in tune with seasonal eating will quickly notice that the meals described here happened some time ago, back when storage onions were still in good condition, and prior to the season when we’ve started eating greenery from the fields again. This piece and the next (which will go up in a few days) describe late winter meals featuring Crystal’s front shoulders. The remainder of the kid is still happily in the freezer, and I intend to resume kid cooking (and timely blogging) quite soon.

For the first shoulder, I decided to work with something of a known quantity: a red wine marinade that I adore every time Eric makes it. I also decided to do some experimentation, trying both a dry heat cooking approach and a moist heat approach. For the moist heat, I’d use a basic braising technique and for the dry heat I’d make kabobs.

The marinade

The red wine marinade is based on one in the classic version of Joy of Cooking, titled “Lamb or Game Marinade.” (Never mind that it doesn’t mention goat; Joy of Cooking glosses over goat, providing more detail for opossum.) Perhaps my favorite part about this marinade is that the leftover liquid is extremely useful in the kitchen, as it provides a very flavorful base for French onion soup—one of those soups that I’ve always loved but could never truly master in vegetarian form. This meal succession makes menu planning easier, too; if red-wine marinated meat is on the menu one day, then I know I’m on duty to make onion soup within a couple of days, and so I should think about making sure I have some excess bread on hand to make croutes for the soup.

I pulled the shoulder out of the freezer and stuck it in the fridge on a Wednesday evening. Though I intended to cut it up before it had fully thawed, life intervened, and I didn’t get to it until Saturday afternoon. By then it was nicely thawed, which made it easier to take the bone out. However, it was harder to cut into uniformly nice pieces.

Technically, I could have marinated the thing whole, but by cutting it up, I was generating more surface area, and it would make my comparison between cooking methods easier to carry out. Plus, it is easier to fit into a pan that way.


Here’s what went into the marinade:

  • ~1 cup red wine (maybe a bit more), a St. James Norton left over from a dinner party
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil (Eric advised me to use less than the recipe calls for)
  • 4 sprigs rosemary from one of my indoor plants
  • 3 sprigs thyme from the herb garden, slightly pathetic from deep winter cold but aromatic nonetheless
  • 1 Tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

I mixed these together, poured over the cubed meat, and put back in the refrigerator to marinate for not quite 24 hours.

Moist heat

The next morning I started my moist heat cooked dish, guided by the basic braise technique: brown some meat, brown some veggies, put it into a container with some liquid, and let it cook for a good long while.

cook_kid_braise_pt1I heated a cast iron skillet, patted the meat chunks dry on a paper towel, then browned the pieces, a few at a time, and put them in an oven-proof dish. I did this for about half of the meat chunks, leaving the other half in the marinade for kabobs the following day.

cook_kid_braise_pt2bNext step, veggies. We had onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and some Jerusalem artichokes in storage, so I chunked up and browned a nice collection of these, along with a sprinkling of salt. cook_kid_braise_pt3

Everything went into my oven-proof dish, and I deglazed the pan with a bit of water. I also heated up and added a bit of the marinade (but left some behind with the remainder of the meat).

This went into the oven at 300ºF (though I bumped up the temp to 400ºF for a while) and spent the morning cooking away.

The results? Wow, yum. This came out as a chunky stew, the liquid having been thickened somewhat by the disintegration of the onions and sweet potatoes into it. The goat was exceedingly tender. The flavors were sublime. We ate about 2/3 of it in one sitting, and we probably could have eaten more, but I wanted to save some for a side-by-side comparison with the kabobs the following day. This, along with a side salad of shredded carrots with vinaigrette, was a perfect hearty meal for a snowy day.

Dry heat

cook_kid_shoulder2_kabobsFor the kabobs, I skewered carrots and onions along with pieces of meat. I thought about grilling these, but with snow on the ground and a busy day, I took the easy way out and used the oven.

I used the broiler setting, and Eric advised me to use the second shelf from the top and cook 4-5 minutes per side. I thought I was following his advice, but after 4 minutes per side, the kabobs were still looking pretty bloody. It turns out that we had a misunderstanding about where the second shelf is, partly because of weird & annoying oven design. So, instead of a fast, high heat, I had cooked them with a moderate, longer heat. Generally speaking, it seems that this is not a good way to get tender results. They finished at a more appropriate distance from the broiler–as shown in the photo above–but by then much of the cooking had already happened.

The kabob meat was definitely on the tough side, though the flavor of the marinade came through deliciously. The slower, longer heat resulted in perfectly done onions–sweet, not sharp, and cooked through. (In my opinion, perfectly cooked kabob meat often accompanies onions that get a bit charred on the outside and undercooked on the inside.)

I mainly blame the cooking technique…or rather my botched execution of the cooking technique…for the toughness. Did the cut of meat contribute, as well? Shoulders aren’t as choice a cut as, say, loin. They are composed of multiple muscles, and there are some oddly shaped ones that don’t produce nice perfect cubes for kabobs. Connective tissue that melts away in braised pieces holds together during dry heat cooking. Shoulders also get a decent amount of use by the animal. But this was a young animal, and Eric has had good success making kabobs from kid shoulder before. Perhaps my next attempt at shoulder kabobs will use a yogurt marinade, since yogurt is said to help with tenderizing. That, and I’ll use the right oven shelf.

cook_kid_shoulder1_onion_soupFinally, the French onion soup! I chopped up a bunch of onions, sauteed them for a long time, then added the remainder of the marinade, plus some water. I toasted some leftover homemade sourdough bread, and served those. Melted cheese is nice, too, but we didn’t have any cheese at the time, so I didn’t serve any.

I also boiled up the bones for broth, and that broth was used two ways. Some went into a soup, and Eric used some to cook rice for fried rice.

One shoulder, multiple meals. Next up: Sauerbraten from shoulder #2.

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