Goat, So Hot Right Now



To try Zeke's recipe for Caribbean goat curry, click here.

Maddy Beckwith, my foodie friend, claims "goat is the new black." And nothing proves she is right more than when I was recently at a San Francisco Mediterranean restaurant, Kokkari. Perusing the menu, I asked if there was any goat. The otherwise engaging maître d' suddenly became defensive. "We have had goat on the menu, but not tonight," he announced. "If you wanted goat, you should have called ahead."

Looking to distinguish themselves and diversify meat offerings from the usual beef, pork, chicken, and lamb, chefs have turned to goat. Goat is not easy to use. If not properly prepared, it can too easily be unpleasantly gamey and tough. Preparing it well usually requires procuring young meat and long, slow cooking. When done right it is less distinctive than lamb but more flavorful than beef.

Chefs who work with goat meat have created some interesting and distinctive dishes.

In Washington, a Mexican-inspired restaurant, Oyamel, offers goat tacos. They are very tasty and the goat is soft shreds and tangy. These are worth a try. But truth be told, the uniqueness of goat gets a bit lost in all the taco stuffings. Unawares, you could mistake it for very tender beef.

Ghana Café, another Washington, D.C. restaurant, offers multiple goat dishes. I recently had Red Red—popular with the office lunchtime crowd in Ghana. (Who knew?) It was a goat stew with plantains, beans, and other things. Filling, and I really liked the plantains, sweet and slightly soft. But frankly the goat was more bone than meat, and it was hard to get much flavor in small nibbles. Nevertheless, at $15.95, the price was right.

Probably the best goat I have had is at Komi, also in Washington, a recent James Beard Foundation Award nominee and a restaurant President Obama recently patronized. It serves a fixed menu of nearly 10 dishes that culminate in a pairing of salt-encrusted fish and very, very slow-roasted goat shoulder served with the bones included for those who like learning—and demonstrating—anatomy at the dinner table. You pull the tender meat off the bones and wrap it in homemade thick pitas and splash it with a variety of condiments. All I can say is WOW—a dish well worth tasting. The meat comes off in strips and provides a rich, earthy taste. Except for the white tablecloths and good wine, you could imagine eating it in the home of, say, Penelope.

After tasting goat at several places, I thought I would try to make a goat dish myself. It helped that Maddy unexpectedly gave me some goat stew meat from Many Rock Farms in Keedysville, Maryland. The meat came with a Caribbean stew recipe (see below).

It was easy to prepare. The slow simmering for one and a half hours made the nice meat very tender, and the curry, cumin, and cardamom gave it zip without excessive spice. Served over rice or, in my case, couscous, it proved to me that even a relatively inexperienced chef could join the food cutting edge by making a nice goat dish. Try "the new black" on your foodie friends.

Recipe: Caribbean Goat Curry