Get your goat: Cabrito, chevreau or capretto -- it's another red meat




What's for supper? I'm guessing the animal protein in the center of the plate tonight is one of these four-letter words: beef, lamb, pork, fowl, fish, veal or, on hunters' tables, deer.

But is anybody serving goat?

Some day soon you might. Goat is on its way to becoming a common menu option. Another red meat.

   
Sources

• Bell's Market Meats, 603 Braddock Ave., Braddock. Freshly cut local or imported frozen goat (also beef, lamb, veal, pork and chicken). 412-271-3324.

• Dream Thyme Farm: At these farmers markets: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at St. James in Sewickley; 4 to 8 p.m. Saturdays at the Twilight Market, Mexican War Streets, North Side; 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Fridays, Oakland). Organic, locally raised goat. Frozen cuts only. 724-748-9124 or e-mail: lynne@dreamthymefarm.com.

• Salem's Halal Meats & Groceries, 338 S. Bouquet St., Oakland. Mid-Eastern carry-out meals and butcher shop. Locally raised, fresh goat, cut to order (plus beef, lamb and poultry). 412-621-4354.

Note: A second butcher shop will open in the Strip District in the spring.

• Strip District Meats Inc., 2121-2123 Penn Ave., Strip District. Imported, frozen goat. 412-391-1762.

• Wholey's Market, 1711 Penn Ave, Strip District. Frozen, cubed goat only. 412-391-3737.

   

Goat is beloved by Latino, Middle Eastern and Italian cooks but is not well known to most Americans. Those who haven't grown up with goat on the table may turn up their noses, imagining a smelly, scruffy animal, a lower-class member of barnyard society.

Not so in California, where so many trends begin. Big-name chefs are featuring goat dishes right now, dishes which, until recently, were rarely seen on upscale menus. Inspiration may come from their ethnic roots, but goat now holds its own in contemporary American presentations at Oakland's Olivetto, Palo Alto's Evvia and Berkeley's Cafe Rouge. Specials such as spit-roasted whole goat, seared goat loin, Milanese-style goat chops and grilled goat brochettes sell out. The meat, lean and tender, is premium quality, artisanally raised and organic.

Statistics show that Americans are eating, and raising, significantly more goats, says Sandy Miller, a Cumberland County farmer who is a board member of the Pennsylvania Meat Goat Producers Association (pmgpa.org).

Goat might never be a choice of the average home cook. But people willing to try something different will find it. Are you game to try gourmet goat?

In the kitchen with goat

I had to find out for myself. Surely, I thought, here in Western Pennsylvania there must be a local source. With a little research, I found and stocked my fridge and freezer with young, organic goat. I've been cooking and serving it for a few months now. I am impressed with its flavor and texture. Here's what I've learned.

Goat is a dark red, lean meat. It has a subtle flavor closer to beef than lamb. It is approximately the caloric equivalent of chicken and has fewer than half the calories of beef. What little fat there is in goat meat is much less saturated and more mono- and polyunsaturated than beef or lamb. While not as lean as venison or grass-fed buffalo, goat is certainly not as fatty as lamb.

Because of the animals' small size, they are processed like lamb and work best in recipes that call for lamb. I suggest you use locally raised, not imported, meat for the best flavor and texture. As with all meat, tenderness of the cut determines the method of cooking.

• Shanks. Oven-braise as for lamb shanks. The portion is right-sized, and a guaranteed good place to start. I subbed goat for lamb in my trusty accompanying recipe.

• Cubed shoulder. Make into a "lamb" stew or Middle Eastern curry, a good place to start if you are just beginning to cook goat. I used half goat and half something familiar, such as beef or lamb, at first.

• Chops. Look for chops about 1 inch thick. They are good marinated, sauteed or grilled. Serve with a sauce of yogurt, cubed cucumbers and chopped mint.

• Ground. For burgers, you can mix half and half with ground lamb.

• Leg. A whole leg can be roasted or grilled. Some meat can be cubed and made into kebabs. Use a classic marinade of olive oil, lemon zest and juice, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.

• Breast. This can be stuffed, rolled and roasted, although I've never tried it.

• Shredded, leftover cooked meat. Taco time: Very good with tortillas and toppings.

What do you think, readers? Ready to try it? How about if we make an anagram of "goat" and call it something else?

Tago, anyone?

A goat by any other name

Goat is often marketed as cabrito, chevreau or capretto. Cabrito is meat from very young, milk-fed goats between four and eight weeks of age; the meat is tender, juicy and very lean and tasty. Chevreau may be goat from six to nine months of age and 48 to 60 pounds. Capretto comes from the Italian term "kid goat."

You can find it on the menus of several area Indian restaurants, including Taj Majal in Ross, which offers bone-in chunks in a goat curry and other dishes. Some Mexican restaurants offer goat as well, including La Fiesta in Oakland. You can sometimes find goat as a special at other ethnic restaurants, including the Ethiopian Abay in East Liberty and Mallorca on South Side. But again, at restaurants, beware of imported goat, which may not taste as good as locally raised meat.

Pittsburgh's celebrity chef and restaurateur, Lidia Bastianich, reminisces.

"Capretto is what we called goats, and I grew up with them. My grandma always kept a few of the adults -- capre, which had kids, cappretti -- every spring. I loved playing with them, and I would be in charge of taking them to and from pasture. The capre needed to be tied and escorted. Otherwise they would get into mischief. But about the capretti, I didn't have to worry; they always followed their moms.

"I helped my grandmother milk them, and she would make ricotta and fresh cheese from the milk. We drank goat milk for breakfast and with coffee. I loved it. The capretti would be born in the spring and get to be just the right size for the Easter festivities. Baby lamb was always an option, but we loved the capretto.

"For me, capretto is one of the most delicious meats. I love eating it, and I love cooking it. As a professional chef I need to butcher it so the meat is evident and not entangled and attached to the bones -- that's to facilitate it for the guests -- but the bones are where it is the sweetest. Capretto has no excess fat, but it has a lot of cartilage, which, when cooked, makes the meat finger-sticking good. It is a light meat. And as far as texture and mouthfeel are concerned, I would consider it almost a white meat."

She adds that she believes "there is no crime in using caprettos, baby lamb, rabbits and veal as long as we use every part of the animal."

Salem's Halal Meats & Groceries is not far from where Forbes Field used to be and a straight shot down Bouquet Street from the Original Hot Dog Shop on Forbes Avenue. At Salem's, you can shop for freshly cut goat, lamb, beef and chicken. Or if you want a delicious lunch or dinner to go, pick up house-made entrees.

Customers read the menu from a chalk board as they wait their turn in line. To get to the butcher shop in the back, you have to smile and suck it in to squeeze past.

There, four cutters fill orders on stainless steel counters. There is no cold case, no glass, no pre-processed meat -- just men breaking down meat while chatting with customers.

The owner, Massoud Salem, is busy working in the back, so his son, Abdul, takes a break from cooking and offers to give me a look around. "We've been in business for 23 years," he says. "My dad is here every day. I'm still in college, but we are so busy, I can take only one class a semester."

The Salems are Halal butchers, serving the Muslim market. Much like kosher meat, halal meat must be slaughtered and processed under strict religious standards and supervision. The animals are slaughtered by knife and allowed to bleed freely. No stunning.

Abdul opens the door to the cooler behind the butchers, where freshly dressed carcasses hang. The cooler is spotless and smells fresh. "We go through about 70 to 80 goats a week," he says. "All the meat is fresh and never more than a week old. Our goat is locally raised and hormone- and steroid-free. Some of the animals are slaughtered in [the town of] 84, others in Sarver, whichever is closest for the farmers. When demand for animals is high, we will buy at the Pennsylvania meat auction."

The 27-year-old, who lives in Shaler, notes, "When a customer chooses a cut, we pull a carcass. Then a butcher bones it out and trims it to the thickness or weight to order. We'll even offer advice on how to cook it." Prices vary from $4.25 to $5.99 per pound.

"Most of our market is international here in Oakland. One of our early clients was the Italian club in the neighborhood.

"But now we sell to just about everybody from every background. Our slogan is, 'We are the closest thing to back home.'"

I got in line and ordered a generous lunch to go. Four goat chops, braised in a mellow sauce with a generous serving of exceptionally flavored rice, $5.99. With salad and dessert, it was an ample dinner for two. Yes, they take credit cards.

Salem's caters, too. I'm daydreaming of roast goat and lamb for a fall dinner party.


Marlene Parrish can be reached at mparrish@post-gazette.com or 412-481-1620. First Published August 21, 2008 4:00 AM




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