Jim Poris / September 2012
What many around the world appreciate, Americans are just coming around to: goat is good. And for chefs, very interesting to work with, as three of them can testify to after each cooked one for Mystery Basket.
Chefs need stimulation, as they well know. Adventure. Risk. Dark alleys. Late nights (ahem!). What good is same old, same old? The food world is too vast, too varied, too damn interesting. Cook something new. You’ll be excited. Guests will be thrilled. The fussy or timid ones? Hand deliver them a taste. They’d love to see you. How could they say no?
And that’s where goat comes in. Finding goat meat on the menu of an American restaurant—as opposed to a Mexican, Indian, Muslim, or African restaurant in America—is about as easy as it was to find goat’s milk in this country 50 years ago. By and large, Americans don’t do goat. But, along with its chameleon flavor and lean texture, that’s its appeal for chefs, the fact that it’s a challenging item that can pique curiosity. Mystery Basket can be curious, too, wondering what three highly regarded chefs—Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia, Chicago), Floyd Cardoz (North End Grill, New York City), and Laurence Jossel (Nopa and Nopalito, San Francisco)—would do if given a whole baby goat to work with. A lot, it turns out.
And with what did they do a lot? Once again, Mystery Basket provided an infuriating list of ingredients. We mean, what’s the problem with using at least 23 of these 30 items: a whole baby goat, 22-lb. dress weight, head on, liver, kidneys, and heart; salt and pepper; garlic; cipollini; German Riesling (auslese); lardo; whole milk; fresh whole anchovies; carrots with tops on; eggs; king mushrooms; black radishes; cardoons; extra-virgin olive oil; prunes; okra; mustard; lemons; tomatoes; jaggery; Banyuls vinegar; all-purpose flour; frika; prepared kimchi; and no more than six of the following herbs and spices: bay leaves; mint; marjoram; cilantro; saffron; rosemary; thyme; sage; mustard seeds; juniper berries; parsley; tarragon; basil; hot or sweet paprika; coriander seeds; cloves; nutmeg; savory; curry powder; and cayenne. Makes sense to us.
“I wake up every day at about 7 a.m. to the sound of my daughter Zola eating her breakfast. She’s 17 months old, all cheeks and shocks of white blond hair. Adorable. Seven in the morning arrives pretty quickly when you get home from work at 12:30 a.m., so those first few minutes of consciousness aren’t always my sharpest. I go downstairs, say good morning to my wife, give my daughter a kiss, and pour myself a cup of tea. As the caffeine starts to take hold, I can almost feel the neural pathways untangling.
“It was right about this time one recent morning when I say to my wife, ‘Food Arts asked me to do this Mystery Basket article.’ I proceed to briefly explain the premise, as my wife responds to the arms-up motion from my daughter, signaling that she has finished coating herself and everything else in a two foot radius with oatmeal and was ready to get out of her highchair and play.
“‘So, what are the ingredients?’ she asks, scraping the blueberry-tinted oats off our daughter. It’s like watching someone trying to wrestle an octopus.
“‘Oh, a lot of useful stuff: tomatoes, lemons, king mushrooms, a good smattering of herbs and spices, a couple of oddball items in there, but—all things considered—it could be much worse. The centerpiece ingredient is a 22-pound baby goat with all the bits intact.’
“My daughter runs past me and grabs a child-sized straw hat from the couch. She stands in front of me, putting the hat on and taking it off while emphatically saying hat. ‘Twenty-two pound baby goat, huh?’ my wife calls out from the kitchen. ‘You know Zola weighs 22 pounds.’
“Hmm, I think, that’s not much. But after my wife brings some toast with white cheddar, I say to myself, ‘This’ll work out fine.’
“Later, after another cup of tea, I begin running through the list, jotting down my ideas, revising them. I realize that the goat is 22 pounds dressed weight, and will therefore be a bit bigger than my daughter—a good thing. I decide that since I have this whole animal, I should try to use as much of it as possible. I decide that I want to make a confit of smoked shoulder; cook a couple of chops from the rack; and fabricate sausage from the heart, liver, and leg meat. I’ll use rendered goat fat as a substitute for butter, an ingredient cruelly not included in the ingredient list. There’ll be plenty of goat bones for stock and for goat jus to finish the dish. I go back to the list for vegetable and starch ideas and to make sure I’ve at least used the required number of items. And then I start to wonder: what to do with the brain?”
Kilgus Farmstead baby goat with tomato/anchovy sofritto, preserved lemon frika & caramelized cippolini. “First things first: three things need attending to before you get into the meat of things: Preserved lemons [salt, coriander seeds, black pepper, time]; salt-cured anchovies [fresh anchovies, salt, time], and paprika-coated smoked lardo [lardo was on the list, as was sweet paprika; conveniently, we already make smoked lardo rubbed with sweet paprika for a scallop dish at the restaurant].
“Now butcher the goat to get a frenched rack, shoulders, legs, the heart, the liver, the leaf lard, the brain, and all the bones and trim. Render the lard, strain, and reserve.
“For the stock, roast the bones; simmer in water for about four hours; then add some cippolini, carrots, and thyme; simmer about another hour; strain; reduce to a jus; chill to use later. Soak the brain in cold water overnight; poach it briefly in a court bouillon made with water, salt, a hit of Riesling, more cippolini, carrots, thyme, and lemon; peel away any gnarly bits; cut into quarters; reserve.
“Grind salt, parsley, thyme, garlic, and a bit of jaggery in a food processor; rub this mixture all over one of the goat shoulders; cure in the walk-in for six hours. Rinse off the shoulder; cold smoke it over applewood chips for about one hour; place in a vacuum-sealable plastic bag with four tablespoons of the rendered goat fat; vacuum-seal; cook in a water bath at 82 degrees Celsius [180˚F] for eight hours; place in an ice water bath to chill; press it slightly to even out its shape; remove the shoulder from the bag; carefully remove the bones; cut into one-inch by three-inch rectangles; reserve.
“Bone out one of the hind legs; cut four scallopini from one of the larger muscles; pound them out; set aside. Combine some leg meat, the heart, a small bit of the liver, and some of the smoked paprika lardo; chill in the refrigerator; pass through a meat grinder; paddle the mixture in an electric mixer; add a splash of Riesling and some salt and pepper. Lay the scallopini out on four pieces of plastic wrap; place some of the goat sausage mixture down the center of each; using the plastic wrap as a guide, roll the scallopini around the sausage mixture to create involtini; place in a vacuum-sealable plastic bag; vacuum-seal; cook in a water bath at 52 degrees Celsius [126˚F] for 30 minutes; place in an ice water bath to chill; reserve in refrigerator. “Lightly season the rack with salt and pepper and put it in a plastic vacuum-sealable bag with one tablespoon rendered goat fat and a sprig of thyme; vacuum-seal; cook in a water bath at 52 degrees Celsius [126˚F] for 35 minutes; place in an ice water bath to chill; reserve in the refrigerator. Make a glaze for the rack by reducing some goat jus, Banyuls vinegar, jaggery, and cracked coriander seeds.
“For the garnishes, make a sofritto by sweating small diced carrots and cipollini in extra-virgin olive oil; add finely chopped salt-cured anchovies and some tomato concassé; reduce to a rich paste; season with salt and pepper; reserve. Cook three pounds of thinly sliced cipollini in a bit of the rendered goat fat until deeply caramelized; puree in a blender; pass through a fine sieve; season with salt and pepper; reserve. Make some pilaf by cooking yet more chopped cipollini in a bit of goat fat and then adding frika, a brunoise of rinsed preserved lemon, and a mix of half goat stock and half water; cook just until the frika is tender; fold in pan-roasted carrots cut in small obliques, chopped parsley, and cilantro; season with salt and pepper; reserve. Make a simple fritter batter: separate eggs; add the yolk to all-purpose flour and whole milk; mix; lighten with a soft meringue made with the whites, since the ingredient list contains no leaveners; reserve in the refrigerator.
Now pull it all together. In several small pots, reheat the sofritto, the cipollini puree, the goat jus, and the frika pilaf; keep them warm. Retherm the goat rack in a water bath at 52 degrees Celsius [126˚F]. Remove the rack from the bag; pat it dry with paper towels; sear in some of the rendered goat fat; brush the rack with the glaze; set under the salamander for a couple of seconds to set the glaze; reserve, keeping warm. Sear the confit goat shoulder in some of the rendered goat fat; baste with goat jus to lacquer the pieces; reserve, keeping warm. Sear the goat involtini in rendered goat fat until nicely browned; place in the oven to finish cooking; reserve, keep warm. Lightly dust the brain pieces in all-purpose flour; dip them in the fritter batter; deep fry the fritters in extra-virgin olive oil for a couple of minutes until crisp; remove with a spider; place on paper towels to drain; reserve.
“To serve, place a dollop of sofritto at the left end of a rectangular plate; top it with one of the fritters and a couple of pieces of micro basil; just to the right brush a small amount of the glaze for the goat rack; slice two chops from the rack and arrange them on top of the glaze; place a couple of tablespoons of the frika pilaf alongside; top it with a piece of the smoked confit shoulder, some goat jus, and a couple of pieces of micro cilantro; on the far right of the plate, place a tablespoon of the caramelized cipollini puree; top it with an involtino that has had the ends cut off and has then been halved on the bias. Now what to drink with all this? How about two wines: Robert Weil Riesling Auslese Rheingau Kiedricher Gräfenberg 1990 to pair up with the rack [sweet/spiced/savory] and the involtini [sweet/sour], and Charly Thévenet Régnié 2010 to complement the brain fritter and smoked shoulder.”
North End Grill
New York City
“One morning I received a very cryptic email, a request from one Jersey Guy to another: ‘I think it would be a good idea if you participated in our Mystery Basket.’ Since it was from an editor at Food Arts, I thought why not.
“As I learned more about Mystery Basket, the less I thought that it was a good idea. I had random flashbacks of Top Chef Masters and the challenges that we were put through for that television show. I had these doubts even without having seen the list of ingredients. All I knew was that the main ingredient was goat, and I loved goat. I kept convincing myself that the chosen ingredients would be A-list, not like the ingredients that show up on various TV shows. So I get the list. For a minute, I thought it was a gag. I mean, curry powder? That’s an ingredient no self-respecting cook should use on a list of ingredients from a reputable food magazine; I don’t believe in using preground spices, and I feel curry powder isn’t balanced—too much turmeric and fenugreek. There were no decent spices on this list. Nothing Asian. Just a crazy mix. I was beginning to hate this exercise.
“The Jersey Guy called again to remind me of the deadline. Right then I decided to approach this exercise the way I cook at home. I would utilize all the flavorings offered to me, like opening the fridge to see what’s there, and create a modern dish. I believe in using all parts of an animal, be it the ankles, brain, kidneys, and all the other parts that don’t normally show up on menus. Since my cooking is inspired from various phases in my life, I decided to cook the goat shanks Kashmiri-style, from a trip I had made as a teenager to this northernmost state of India. I would milk braise the legs, then use the milk proteins as a coating on the shanks. Wheat is also a very common ingredient in India, so the frika listed as an ingredient is a natural. Most people find organ meats hard to like, so I figured I would cook them with eggs to mimic a Bombay street dish that’s a perfect way to counteract a night of overindulgence with alcohol. And to finish, I decided to use my current restaurant, North End Grill, and my travels to South America as inspiration for roasting the goat’s leg. I would also use okra stew as a nod to Southern cooking. Still, even after finishing the exercise, I couldn’t imagine why curry powder was on the ingredient list. Needless to say, I didn’t use it!”
Goat three ways. “First, butcher the goat, breaking it down into legs, shoulders, and loins; crack the skull and remove the brain; cut off the shanks and tie with butcher’s twine; cut off the ankles, neck, and breast. Combine the head, breast, and ankles in a large pot; cover with water; bring to a boil; simmer three hours; strain; discard meats; reserve stock.
“Next, deal with the shanks: place the four shanks, one gallon whole milk, one quart goat stock, one peeled and crushed garlic head, one cup thinly sliced cipollini, four cloves, one tablespoon finely ground black pepper, some mint sprigs, lemon zest, two peeled carrots, two king mushrooms, two cups Riesling, and salt in a large pot; bring to a boil; reduce heat; simmer until the meat is fork tender; remove carrots, cloves, mushrooms, and the shanks; reduce the liquid to sauce consistency; coat shanks with reduction; refrigerate overnight.
“Blanch the goat’s brain; shock in ice water; remove from water; pat dry with a kitchen towel; cut into half-inch cubes; reserve in refrigerator. Marinate two goat’s legs in a mixture of two zested and juiced lemons, one tablespoon black pepper, three cloves, three mint sprigs, four sliced garlic cloves, one tablespoon ground coriander seeds, and three tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for three to six hours.
“Soak four cups frika in water for two hours; drain; place in a pot with 3 cups goat stock, two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper; bring to a boil; reduce heat; cover; simmer until liquid is absorbed; fluff with a fork; fold in a chiffonade of mint; season with salt; reserve, keeping warm.
“Heat three tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a pot set over high heat; add the goat kidneys; sauté one minute; remove from the pot; add six cipollini [previously roasted with skins on, then skins removed, and quartered], three minced garlic cloves, and one-quarter teaspoon cayenne; cook three minutes; add four diced, peeled, and seeded tomatoes; cook four minutes; fold in 12 grilled okra, cut into one-half inch pieces, and four tablespoons diced kimchi, some mint chiffonade, and the kidneys; season with salt and pepper; remove from heat; reserve, keeping warm.
“Prepare for pickup. Remove shanks from refrigerator and allow them to come almost to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees; place shanks in small roasting pan; roast until golden brown; remove from oven; reserve, keeping warm. Grill the marinated legs and rack until medium-rare; remove from the grill; reserve, keeping warm. Cut four half-inch-thick disks from black radishes; reserve. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan set over medium heat; add one-half teaspoon mustard seeds; cook until they pop; add one cup minced cipollini and four cloves minced garlic; cook until they lightly caramelize; add one cup diced, peeled, and seeded tomatoes and one-half teaspoon cayenne; cook until thickened; reduce heat to low; fold in the diced brain, two beaten eggs, two tablespoons each of mint and cilantro chiffonade; mix until lightly scrambled; remove from heat; form mixture into a quenelle; place one quenelle on each radish disk.
“To serve, cut thin slices from the leg; cut chops from the rack; place the tomato stew in middle of the plate; top with a slice of leg and one chop; place some frika on one side; top with a roasted shank; place a brain-topped radish on the other side. As for wine, Jean Foillard Morgon Côtes du Py, because I think this aromatic Beaujolais Cru works great with the assortment of mild and strong flavors in this dish.”
“Hello, nice people. My name is Laurence Jossel, and I’m a cook. I’m also a managing owner in three very busy—thankfully—restaurants in San Francisco. My life is hectic and very interesting, especially when you throw into the mix my 4 year old son Riley and my beautiful wife and business partner Allyson. To say every day is chock full is an understatement. So when this guy from New York City called one fine day to invite me to participate in this little writing/cooking project, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. There’s always time for another project. Wrong! There is no more time! That’s why I threatened and cajoled Braxton Schell, a trusty sous chef at Nopa and a bright lad to boot, to write about our goat adventures. Take it away, Braxton.”
“The goat I was currently touching had just been released from its life in front of me, something I had never witnessed before. Oddly enough, freshly killed goat feels like it’s still alive. This was not at all how I had planned on spending this June Wednesday.
“In passing, Laurence had mentioned he needed help with ‘a writing project.’ He also had said we needed a 22-pound goat with head on and all of its entrails. As is usually the case, he was a few steps ahead of me: ‘We could call that farm that we got those duck eggs from, remember?’ He briefly interrupted himself with a goofy grin. ‘They raise goats, and this would be a good way to check them out, but we’re obviously going to have to go there.’
“‘Where is there?’ was all I could muster in response.
“‘It’s in Bodega Bay,’ Laurence replied. ‘It’s nice up there. We should go.’
“‘I’m in,’ I answered without hesitation.
“It was Thursday. In Nopa kitchen-speak that means it was one of three market days. We hit two markets and then turned north to go see where these goats lived. It was one of those pleasant Bay Area days that really defy description. We exited the highway and, with the aid of Google maps and a smart phone, I proceeded to get lost twice within the span of five miles. After a couple of U-turns and a fair share of laughing at my expense, we arrived at the farm, which sat near a narrow and unusually high-trafficked gravel road. We were greeted by Jocelyn Brabyn, daughter of the owners of 400 acres of rolling hills. She told us only eight acres were in use and the rest was basically being kept as a nature preserve. As we walked and talked, we were introduced to a couple of the Anatolian Shepherds kept as guard dogs, large white beasts that would make most animals consider their options before making a move. We viewed their newly acquired goslings and some very young and absurdly adorable baby goats. The barely two month old goats trotted up with youthful curiosity. They smelled us and proceeded to trail us as we continued our tour. At this point, the little guys had to be bottle fed, so they were kept separate from the rest of the flock. We strolled a little up a dirt road that was flanked by ducks and the enclosure for the male goats. The three of them sat sizing us up but were disinterested in what we were up to. In the background a female was running with her kids. Jocelyn explained that these were Kiko goats, a dairy breed that originated in New Zealand. These goats were left on pasture day and night, as free as farmed animals can be raised. After a quick discussion about getting a goat from the farm the following week, we headed back to the city.
“The next Monday, Laurence told me that he had enlisted the services of John Taylor, who slaughters and dresses animals on-site at farms around Sonoma County. A group of Nopa employees headed up to Bodega Bay with us two days later to view the event. At 3 p.m., Jocelyn called to see if we were close because John had a busy day and needed to start the slaughter. We were not that far away from the farm, so he decided to kill the first goat and save the second one for us to watch. We pulled up at the farm and fell out of the car like a bunch of amateur clowns. The first thing we saw was a goat getting hit with two quick jabs that were reminiscent of a prison shanking; we had just watched a live animal become dead meat. At this point Lesley, Jocelyn’s mother, walked away. She later told us that it was too hard to watch an animal die that she had spent so much time trying to keep alive. Jocelyn stayed with our group commenting, ‘It was something she needed to see.’ John explained it was better to kill the goats in pairs because once one dies, the second one sees how serene it is and settles down, comforted by the fact that whatever is about to happen is going to happen with a friend.
“Having never really felt a freshly killed animal, I put my hand on one of the goats. This was the biggest difference I could feel between the meat we eat and the animals they were. Meat is cold, and if it’s not cold, then there’s probably a problem. Animals are hot; even just-killed animals feel as if they should just get up and run off. But these two just lay there. John worked seamlessly and with purpose, hanging the first goat on his rig that was something out of a horror movie. He hoisted the goat up a small crane with a hook and removed the shanks and horns. He then unzipped the front of the goat with his weathered butcher knife. He told us he had learned his craft from his uncle. With very fast short swipes, he removed the pelt from the goat. Sometimes he used the handle of the knife to tear the skin away. Kiko translates to ‘flesh’ in English, and after about 15 minutes the first goat was a hanging example of its name. As he worked, a small herd of Scottish Highland cows moved through, with two frolicking youngsters blind to the death in front of them. John then set to gutting the animal and pulled the intestine out of the front of the goat like a bloated gray handkerchief out of a magician’s top hat. Here was an animal that had obviously eaten recently. It was strange to watch the final meal being pulled from the goat. This would have been a routine day for this goat, but we had interrupted those plans. After the entrails were bagged up, John hosed off both goats and cleaned himself up a bit as well. We loaded the carcasses in the car and iced the pair down. Laurence asked John a few questions about his trade. The two shook hands, and Laurence said, ‘I’ve gotta pick up my kid.’ ‘And,’ countered John, ‘I’ve gotta go kill sheep.’ ”
Git That Goat. “Early Sunday morning, I butchered the goats, leaving one for José Ramos, my chef at the two Nopalito restaurants, to turn into an amazing birria de chivo [a spicy goat stew cooked in banana leaves]. I separated the hind legs into five muscles and salted them along with the forelegs, belly, ribs, and neck.
“Fast-forward to Monday morning: dropped the kid—my son, that is—at school and headed to Rainbow Grocery, a hippy-dippy co-op, to purchase some of the harder-to-find items on the ingredient list. Back in the kitchen, I began by marinating the loins, tenderloins, and leg muscles with chopped house-cured anchovies, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil. Next, sear the neck, forelegs, ribs, and belly; remove; add peeled cipollini and carrots; cook until they begin to brown; deglaze with a full bottle of the German Riesling; reduce by half; add a few chopped, peeled, and seeded tomatoes and a gallon of whole milk, along with loads of garlic, rosemary, and thyme; divide between two deep hotel pans; add two cups of prunes to each pan; divide the seared goat parts between each pan; cover with foil; braise four hours in a 225 degree oven; remove from oven; reserve.
“Boil frika in salted water 15 minutes or so until it’s done; drain. Now here’s the part where the days and nights caught up to me as I went astray and cooked up some basmati rice—use of an illegal ingredient punished by a penalty flag and a scathing phone call from a Food Arts editor. I combined it with the frika to make a pilaf. Sorry ‘bout that. Frika’s good on its own, for sure.
“Time to pickle okra: cut them into thick rounds; toss in kosher salt; let sit a few minutes; rinse in a colander. Bring one half cup Banyuls vinegar, one tablespoon jaggery, a half cup water, a pinch of cayenne, one bay leaf, and a few peppercorns to a boil; pour the brine over the okra; set the bowl of okra into an ice bath to cool for one hour; remove from ice water bath; reserve.
“I also made a goat liver pâté: sweat lots of diced cipollini in extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt and pepper; add the chopped heart and one chopped kidney; raise the heat to brown them; remove from the pan; place in a stainless-steel bowl. Using the same pan, render some lardo; add the liver, previously seasoned with salt and pepper; sear on all sides; deglaze with a few splashes of Riesling; place all in a food processor; blend until smooth, drizzling in a little milk as the machine runs; fold in the reserved onions, heart, and kidney; place in a bowl; season; reserve in the refrigerator.
“Time to pull it all together. Grill the leg muscles, loins, and a kidney over almond wood to medium-rare; let them rest. I decided family-style was the best way to serve this lovely animal. On a big round platter, place a large mound of the illegal pilaf, the braised goat meats with the prunes, cipollini, and carrots; cut the leg muscles, loins, and kidney into slices; place next to everything else; garnish with chopped mint and cilantro. Load the pâté into a small glass jar; place on a wooden cutting board with a small salad of chopped hard-boiled eggs, sliced black radish, and the pickled okra [and, here’s where I went off the rails again, some peas and their pods]. Also on the board place some whole-grain mustard and house-made crackers—cooled melted lardo cut into all-purpose flour and salt, worked into a dough, rested, rolled, baked on a nonstick pad between two sheet pans at 450 degrees, and cut into shapes. Just to be provocative, I put the whole roasted goat’s head on the board, too, because I thought it would be visually disturbing! Fun! Even more fun to drink Copain Syrah Baker Ranch Anderson Valley 2009, an organic wine full of violets, black and white peppercorns, just ripe berry fruit, and some smoky nuances. It has fruit but it’s not jammy at all.”