When deciding what to cook for dinner on any given night, "goat," for most of us, is likely the one of the last ideas to come to mind. Goat meat is on the rise in Madison restaurants, but it's still largely absent from home kitchens. Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, authors of a plethora of cookbooks and the blog Real Food Has Curves, are out to change that in their recent cookbook, Goat: Meat Milk Cheese (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $30).
In the preface, Weinstein and Scarbrough explain how goat meat hasn't yet fallen into the "tastes like chicken" category because "nobody has morphed the DNA of goats so that they have breasts so big they can't walk (hello, chickens), or hooves so weak they are prone to rot (hello, cows)." In fact, no hormones and only a few antibiotics have been approved for goat production in the Unites States. In other words, this stuff is pure and deeply flavorful. What's more, upwards of 70% of the red meat eaten globally is goat. All said, we are only left to wonder why the heck we hadn't thought to cook with goat meat and dairy until now.
The authors effectively deconstruct the illusive goat into three easy-to-grasp sections: meat, milk and yogurt, and cheese. Those sections are broken down further into familiar categories like "hunks," "chunks," "moles," and "curries" in the meat section. The recipes are interlaced with anecdotes that add a level of fun to what is some pretty serious cooking, and give valuable insight to everything from goat farming to the intricate art of goat cheese-making.
The "meat" recipes range from simple (chili) to complex (the seven-hour leg), and from familiar (burgers) to foreign (dopiaza -- think of really fancy French onion soup). The first recipe I tried, however, was from the "cheese and yogurt" section. The directions for corn pudding were easy to follow, and in no time I had myself a rich, cheesy corn casserole made with goat milk, soft goat cheese and hard goat cheese. The tanginess of the goat products added an enjoyable dimension to what would otherwise have been a pretty ordinary dish. The goat cheese cheesecake recipe was also easy to follow; however, those who consumed it didn't realize it was made with goat cheese until they were told.
Overall, this is a great guide for those who are ready to embrace these up-and-coming ingredients. If you're low on time, money or sense of adventure, though, you may be best off simply finding a fresh baguette and giving it a generous smear of soft chevre. Perfection.
Don't know where to get your goat meat? Weinstein and Scarbrough provide a list of US farms. The most local they list, Shepard Song Farm , is in Downing, Wisconsin. Other local purveyors include Black Earth Meats in Black Earth, Greek Acres Farm in Cambria and Ruegsegger Farms in Blanchardville.