Got my goat

Goat: the other red meat (photo by Alison Ashton)

Here’s my trend prediction: Goat meat is ready to go mainstream. I’m not the first to make this forecast, but I hope it’s true this time.

Of course, goat already is mainstream in  much of the world, from Latin America and the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and Middle East to India and Pakistan. I’m sure I’m overlooking a few more goat-eating regions. But for most Americans, goat cheese is our goat product of choice, though you might occasionally sample the meat at an ethnic food fair or restaurant. You’re certainly not going to find it next the beef ribeye at the local supermarket.

In my sheltered little life, despite extensive travels and an eagerness to try anything, I’d never been presented a plate of goat before–until a recent trip to Northern California’s Wine Country, where I enjoyed goat twice in three days. The first time was braised goat served over polenta at Osteria Stellina in Pt. Reyes Station. I urged the diner next to me to order it so I could sample it, and probably ended up eating half her dinner.

“Oh, man, I have to find goat meat at home,” I said, tucking into another bite. She was nice about it. The second time, it was goat poached in whey at the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood resort in Napa Valley.

In both cases, I found the meat tender, yet lean, and satisfying. It’s flavor was deep and a tad gamy, reminiscent of of lamb. Henry Alford has described it as “jungle lamb.”

Good point: If you like lamb, you’ll probably love goat. If you’re one of those people who hates lamb because it’s so lamb-y, goat isn’t for you. And I’ll bet the people who dislike goat cheese (I’ve observed that many folks detest both lamb and goat cheese) won’t like the meat any better.

But I love lamb and goat cheese, and happily embraced goat meat. I went home determined to track the stuff down.

I’m fortunate to live near Culver City, Calif., which is chockablock with Latin grocery stores, carnicerias, and bakeries, and dotted with more than a few halal butchers. A quick consultation with Yelp! (hey, “the people” have helped me find an awesome vet and a great hairdresser, so I trust ’em) led me to Sanchez Meat Co., a dinky Latin grocery/meat market with a crew of friendly butchers who actually do butcher meat. Try finding that at the local Albertson’s.

There wasn’t any goat nestled among the gorgeous cuts of flank steak, ribeye, and pork chops in the display case, but the butcher looked in his freezer and pulled out two whole bone-in kid shoulders. (When it comes to goat meat, you want a young ‘un, usually labeled “kid” or “cabrito.” Like lamb, goat gets tough as it grows up.) I didn’t have a plan for the meat yet, so he offered to cut a shoulder down into 3-inch chunks. Perfect. I took my find home, where I later turned into a ragu.

So why goat, why now? The tender texture and rich flavor, of course, but there are some health advantages, too. Goat is lower in calories and leaner than, say, beef, weighing in at just 122 calories and 3 grams of fat (1 gram saturated fat) for 4 ounces. Yet it has 23 grams of protein. That alone should earn it place next to the ribeye at the supermarket.