By Claudia Alarcón
Photography of Windy Hill Organics goat by Janice Williams
On a cool, early fall evening, chefs James Holmes and Andrew Francisco hosted a seven-course goat-and-beer pairing dinner at Olivia. Among the spectacular dishes were pickled goat heart, goat tartare with caramelized Brussels sprouts and smoked goat ribs with IPA barbeque sauce. It wasn’t so long ago that even the most adventurous of chefs would have shied away from serving goat because of its long-standing reputation as gamy, or too unfamiliar and suspect to appeal to mainstream diners.
But as Holmes and Francisco expertly exhibited, those perceptions appear to be changing, and palates expanding, as more and more chefs and diners embrace this delicious meat.
Many ethnic cuisines have proudly included goat for thousands of years. Goat remains have been found in Neolithic sites in China, and both goat and mutton were eaten in the ancient kingdom of Sumer, now Iraq. India’s Rig Veda, an ancient collection of sacred hymns, mentions goat and sheep as food, and goats continue to be a big part of the cuisines of the Mediterranean, Balkan and Middle Eastern regions. In addition, goat is the staple meat in Muslim and African countries, while the Portuguese enjoy whole roasted kid and chanfana, a stew prepared for special occasions.
In Jamaica, curried goat is a festive dish, and many goat recipes exist in the French Antilles. In the Philippines, eateries called kambingan specialize in goat dishes such as caldereta, a piquant stew of Spanish origin that incorporates olives, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes, and sinampalukang kambing, a tamarind-based hot-and-sour soup. “In Malaysia, they serve a dish called kari kambing, which translates to ‘mutton’ or ‘goat curry,’” says Chef Francisco, who spent part of his early years there and who is now opening a new restaurant in Austin called Mettle. In central Mexico, goat is used for traditional pit barbacoa, and is the main ingredient in birria, a spicy soup or stew widely known as a hangover cure in Mexico City and the state of Jalisco. And more familiar to Texans, of course, is the ubiquitous cabrito of northern Mexico origin.
Even though the rugged, harsh-weather-adapted and versatile goat is the most widely eaten red meat in the world, the rise of the meat on traditionally goat-averse, high-end menus throughout Austin is, in large part, a result of the work of Ty Wolosin. After earning a master’s degree in environmental geography in Montana, Wolosin returned to the ranch owned by his mother and stepfather, Janice and James Williams, in Comanche. The couple kept a handful of Boer goats, a breed developed in South Africa in the early 1900s especially for meat production, but Wolosin really wanted to put the land to work.
Wolosin started Windy Hill Organics with a garden—selling his produce at farmers markets in Brownwood and Abilene—but his first attempts at selling goat meat failed. He finally found success at the White Rock Local Market in Dallas, and by the summer of 2010, he was selling a steady supply to Chef Graham Dodds of Dallas’s Central 214 restaurant, as well as to The Turtle restaurant in Brownwood. Seeing a change in tide, Wolosin grew his Boer herd and started selling at Austin’s HOPE Farmers Market in the fall, where Chef Sonya Coté bought the meat for the hamburgers at East Side Showroom.
In the summer of 2011, Wolosin’s farm unfortunately had to slaughter half their stock because of the drought. “We couldn’t afford to feed them; we didn’t have a choice,” he says. “We ended up with a surplus of meat, so I started making cold calls to restaurants.” Soon, the surplus was snatched up, and somewhat suddenly, Windy Hill’s chevon (meat from goats aged 6 to 14 months) has become highly regarded by chefs at restaurants like Barley Swine, Swift’s Attic, Olivia, Lenoir and Hillside Farmacy, among many others.
Because Windy Hill can’t sustain many goats, Wolosin sources from other area ranchers who meet his specifications of sustainably raised, antibiotic- and hormone-free animals to keep up with the growing demand. He is currently partnering with Mary Walker-Chyle of Hilltop Place Ranch in Leakey—who sells in the San Antonio, Kerrville and Uvalde areas—and he trades cuts of meat with her that are best suited to their respective markets. “Last year we sold a total of forty goats,” says Wolosin. “This year, we are on par for four hundred.”
And other local farms and ranches are following Wolosin’s suit. Rocking B Ranch, owned and operated by the Brownson family in Hext, has also had recent success selling grassfed Boer chevon at Austin restaurants like Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Chupacabra Cantina, and at Barton Creek Farmers Market and Dripping Springs Farmers Market. In Bastrop, RRR Farm raises a handful of Boers—mainly as part of their heirloom vegetable and flower operation. “[Boer goats] were chosen because their breed is primarily for meat,” says farm co-owner Renee Miller Rangel, “but they are also very domesticated and will stay on our property without fencing.” On occasion, the Rangels will butcher a goat to cook for parties at their home and sometimes to sell at their farmers market stand. And Martine Pelegrin, chef at Whip In, is delighted with the new attention goat meat is receiving, and notes that their number-one-selling menu item is the goat sliders. “Goat appeals to me on so many levels,” she says. “I like it because it approaches the flavor of lamb, but it’s actually less gamy. It keeps things small, local and sustainable. And in Texas, if it’s on the hoof, we love it.”
Currently, Texas produces 70 percent of the nation’s goat meat, but 90 percent of that goes to the East Coast—something that Wolosin desperately wants to change. “I want to convince goat ranchers to sell their goat in Texas,” he says. “My vision is to have a goat-meat trading co-op so that area goat farmers can help each other succeed. The idea of Texas feeds Texas is important.”
BIRRIA (CHILI-MARINATED GOAT STEW)
Courtesy of Chef Iliana de la Vega and the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio
For the goat:
1 lb. goat meat
½ lb. goat foreshank
½ lb. goat ribs
2 dried pasilla chilies, veins and
3 dried ancho chilies, veins and
2 dried guajillo chilies, veins and
3 dried de árbol or cascabel chilies
3 garlic cloves
½ t. peeled and grated ginger root
2 allspice berries
1 t. dried oregano
½ t. thyme
½ c. orange juice
½ c. apple cider vinegar
½ c. rice vinegar
2 t. dried marjoram
For the stew:
1½ lb. Roma tomatoes, dry roasted
½ white onion, dry roasted
1 garlic clove, dry roasted
1 t. dried oregano
2 T. vegetable oil or lard
2 qt. chicken broth or water
Salt, to taste
1 white onion, diced finely
¼ c. dried oregano
6 lime wedges
½ c. salsa picante (homemade or store-bought)
18 corn tortillas
Salt, to taste
Rub the meat generously with salt, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Place the chilies in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft. Remove and transfer the chilies to a blender along with the garlic, ginger, spices (except the marjoram), orange juice and vinegars. Pass through a strainer and reserve. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and rub the chili-vinegar adobo marinade on the meat. Cover with plastic warp and refrigerate for one day. Place the seasoned meat and the adobo marinade into a Dutch oven, add the marjoram and cook, covered, in a 325° oven for 4 to 5 hours, until tender.
Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes, onion, garlic and oregano for the stew until smooth. Heat the vegetable oil or lard and fry the stew mixture until the color darkens. Add the chicken broth or water, season with salt and reserve. When the goat meat is tender, cut it into small pieces and place into individual bowls. Ladle the warmed stew over the meat and serve with the garnishes on the side.
GOAT TARTARE APPETIZER
WITH CRAB SALAD, CARAMELIZED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
Courtesy of Chef Andrew Francisco
The goat loin and tenderloin are the best cuts for tartare because of their natural tenderness and absence of interior connective tissue. Like any other red meat, goat will oxidize, so dice the meat at the end of preparation, and keep it well wrapped to minimize oxygen exposure. Windy Hill’s goat meat is uniquely sweet and clean tasting. Keep in mind that the raw goat meat should be the majority of the dish. Make the cajeta in advance and serve at room temperature—I use Rick Bayless’s recipe. It works every time.
For the cajeta:
1 vanilla bean
2 qt. goat’s milk
2 c. sugar
½ t. baking soda
Split the vanilla bean in half and, using the back of a knife, scrape the seeds away from the pod halves. Add the seeds, the pod halves, the goat’s milk, sugar and vanilla to a pot. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. Add the baking soda—be careful; it will bubble. Place the pot back on the heat and simmer until it reaches a deep golden-brown caramel color. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois and let cool to room temperature. (Refrigerate any leftover cajeta for other uses—it tastes good on absolutely everything!)
For the goat:
10 oz. Windy Hill Organics goat loin or tenderloin
8 t. extra-virgin olive oil (grassy- or peppery-tasting)
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
Special equipment: ring mold for serving
For the crab salad:
4 oz. jumbo lump crabmeat (picked through for shells)
4 T. aioli or mayonnaise
4 t. fresh lemon juice
4 green onions, tops trimmed, sliced very thinly
4 t. minced chives
Kosher salt, to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
For the Brussels sprouts:
8 Brussels sprouts
¼ c. olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Chill four small plates. Carefully remove any connective tissue from the goat meat and discard. Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. In a small mixing bowl, gently mix all of the crab salad ingredients together and reserve in the refrigerator. Clean any bruised leaves from the Brussels sprouts and trim the bottoms. Gently remove the first layer of leaves from each and reserve. Quarter the sprouts.
In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the leaves for a few seconds then place them in ice water to shock (stop the cooking). Dry the leaves on a towel. Blanch the quartered sprouts for 1 minute, until still firm in the center, then shock in ice water. Drain and dry. Remove the goat meat from the refrigerator, dice finely with a sharp knife and place in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator. Heat the olive oil for the Brussels sprouts to the smoking point in a small sauté pan, add the sprouts, one by one, and caramelize the interior of the vegetable. Season with kosher salt. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and season with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
Spoon the cajeta onto the chilled plates. Using the ring mold, place a quarter of the goat tartare on each plate then place a dollop of crab salad on top. Place the caramelized Brussels sprouts around each plate and garnish with blanched Brussels sprout leaves. Serve with crostini, crackers, chips or bread.
SPICY GOAT CURRY
Courtesy of Chef Martine Pelegrin and Whip In
2 lb. goat stew meat
For the marinade:
1 T. crushed garlic
1 T. grated ginger
1 t. cayenne
1 t. garam masala
1 t. turmeric
1 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
2 t. sea salt
2 c. yogurt
For the curry:
4 T. ghee
1 t. brown mustard seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
1 T. fennel seeds
2 large yellow onions, sliced
Sea salt, to taste
2 T. crushed garlic
2 T. grated ginger
2 t. cayenne
1 T. ground coriander
1 T. black pepper
2 bay leaves
12 curry leaves
1 t. turmeric
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
Cilantro leaves, to garnish
Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the goat meat and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Melt the ghee in a large soup pot. Add the mustard seeds and cinnamon and cook over high heat until the seeds pop. Stir in the cloves and fennel seeds. Add the onions and sauté with the salt, garlic, ginger, cayenne and coriander. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Allow the onions to sweat until they have given off their water—about 20 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the goat meat and its marinade and mix well. Stir in the black pepper, bay and curry leaves and turmeric, bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook, checking and stirring often, until the meat is cooked through—about 30 minutes. Return the heat to high and stir in the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the meat is tender—about 1 hour. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve with rice or boiled potatoes.
WHERE TO FIND LOCAL GOAT MEAT
Windy Hill Organics goat meat is available for purchase from Greenling home delivery service, Farmhouse Delivery, Wheatsville Food Co-op, Green Gate Farms meat CSA program and HOPE Farmers Market. Rocking B Ranch sells at the Barton Creek Farmers Market and Dripping Springs Farmers Market. RRR Farm harvests goats occasionally and sells it at SFC Farmers’ Market–Sunset Valley and –East, and at HOPE Farmers Market and Mueller Farmers’ Market.