A little curry makes goat taste good
It's good to have friends who are goat farmers. Every Friday, for example, they brought me cheese. Last week: Swedish curds and fresh mozzarella. They also brought two pounds of freshly slaughtered goat. The kid and his milk, in one delivery.
From the moment I got my goat, I knew how I was going to cook it, a certainty that stemmed from my days as a high school teacher in Boston. On my lunch break I used to slip away to a nearby Jamaican café called the Silver Slipper, which served oxtail soup, jerk chicken, ginger beer and my favorite, curry goat. (They also had the TV going all the time, with a running commentary by the regulars. I'll never forget a particularly enlightening discussion regarding the implications of John Wayne Bobbit's severed package.)
Not long after my stint at the Silver Slipper, I traveled in South America, and then across the Caribbean toward home. In Guyana and Jamaica, I ate more curry goat.
Guyananese culture is surprisingly like Jamaican, but on the South American mainland. The look of the people, the slang, the music, and of course, the food. In places like that, when they ask if you want pepper, they don't mean black pepper. "Burn ya twice mon," I once heard in Georgetown, "himport, hexport."
So there I was, years later, with my package of goat meat and my memories, and I couldn't wait to curry that goat. I hunted online for a good recipe. Any that didn't call for an extended marination period, I discarded. I may not know too much about Caribbean cooking, but me know ya takya time widde seas-oning. And don't worry, the recipe I settled on, posted on www.caribseek.com by Nugent and Green, won't burn a hole in your trousers.
The first task was to cut two pounds of goat meat into bite-sized chunks. At this point, I stuck my nose into the bowl of meat, like I always do, and I took a big whiff. The meat, clean and fresh, had a mildly gamy smell to it, closer to deer than lamb. This is a flavor that's pleasing to me. Ask any deer in my freezer.
There is, however, a point beyond which gamy starts to smell or taste foul. The French are famous for dancing on this fine line, with their moldy cheeses and ducks hung by the head for weeks, ungutted.
Here in the States, many households are divided by the hunter's preference for his kill, while his family prefers tamer meat. Even then, many hunters only get off on the killing and trophies, preferring to eat beef.
The next task is to squeeze the juice of one lime onto the goat chunks. Stir it up and leave it for 10 minutes. Then drain the juice and rinse the meat.
This lime treatment was perplexing to me. It seems as though the lime is meant to extract something which is then washed away. I made a note to investigate, noting that when I sniffed the goat after the lime treatment, all hint of smell was gone.
The next step is best accomplished with a large mortar and pestle. A food processor also works, or you can mince finely and mix together in a bowl.
Mash up four cloves of garlic. Then add two minced chile peppers and mash it all together with the garlic. Next, mix in one teaspoon black pepper, one teaspoon thyme leaves, two teaspoons salt and one or two tablespoons of curry powder. Mix it all together until you have a fragrant paste, which you rub onto the meat. Toss in one sliced onion or shallot and keep the meat in the fridge in a closed container.
While it was seasoning, I wondered about the lime treatment.
I Googled every permutation of lime, goat, flavor chemistry, wild game, gamy I could think of. I called chefs. I called goats. I finally called my friend Bill, who runs with the deer and caters to the stars.
"Oh yeah," he said, "I've heard of that. Like with three-day-old dog meat that's been lying in the sun covered with flies. They'll do an acidulation bath to pull the nastiness out. Acid draws out moisture—too much acid in a marinade can dry out meat."
Perhaps in my case, the lime treatment wasn't necessary. Not all goat, after all, is slaughtered in the cold, while still a kid, cleaned on stainless steel, and brought fresh to my door. Still, I'm liking the ghetto authenticity of this recipe. And I've tasted elk that could have used a good acidulation bath.
After seasoning the meat for two hours, heat two tablespoons of cooking oil and one tablespoon of sugar in a pot. When the sugar starts to brown, add the marinated goat, plus one bunch of chopped green onions. Cover the pot and let it cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often, adding water if it starts to dry out. When the meat is nicely browned, add two large (or four medium) potatoes, cut into cubes. Put the lid back on and add water until it covers the contents. Cook on low to medium heat until the potatoes are soft. You can also cook it slowly for hours, if you want. Just keep the water at a level that covers the contents, so you get lots of sauce.
A few days later, I squeezed some lime on some deer meat—not that my meat is gamy, by the way, but I wanted to give it the full curry goat treatment. The operation was a success. More specifically: Ya mon. Dis deer be ahhpnin. And with so many more goat recipes to substitute with deer meat, my freezer is looking better and better.
Frozen goat meat is available for $6.99 per pound at the little food shop inside India Palace (Montogmery at Wyoming, 271-5009).