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Tips for cooking great-tasting goat

I wouldn’t kid you. Goat is a diner’s delight.

I usually purchase locally raised lamb, but this year I opted for goat, and my payoff is about 50 pounds of high-quality, humanely and sustainably produced protein.

To be fair, the same Crater High School student who raised two lambs for me in previous years pledged the goat instead. But I may have been skeptical if I hadn’t tried goat several years ago on a Caribbean vacation.

The goat tasted lean and mild to me, contrary to most diners’ expectations — make that American diners.

Elsewhere in the world, goat isn’t just common, it’s among the only sources of meat. In inhospitable climates, goats are prized for their ability to browse on nearly barren tracts of land, surviving on vegetation that other animals can’t stomach. So goat’s appeal spans the globe and countless cuisines, from African to Latin to Mediterranean and even Chinese.

On the island of Antigua, a luxury resort we visited included traditional goat in its curry. The effect was somewhere between lamb and chicken in both flavor and texture. If the menu hadn’t listed goat, guests would have been hard-pressed to pinpoint it.

Only 23% of U.S. consumers have tried goat, according to a 2018 Huffington Post article. And that number probably accounts for Americans with immigrant traditions, such as roasting a whole goat to mark special occasions in Mexico and Greece. Goat head is consumed in Jamaica and South Africa.

Next to goat head soup, my enthusiasm over tongue, heart and liver looks downright pedestrian. But my partner, I could tell, was expending no small effort to hide his distaste. If goat meat is off almost every American’s radar, its organs and other offal are even more obscure.

But I can’t conscience paying for the whole animal without claiming some of its most nutritious and delicious parts. I make a point of driving to the small farm that raised my goat on the day it’s slaughtered to collect the organs. If I leave them in the butcher’s hands, they’re frozen and delivered to me a couple of weeks later.

Although liver is high in cholesterol, it’s among the highest animal sources of iron and also boasts essential fatty acids and vitamins A, B and C. Heart and tongue are lean muscle meats that turn meltingly tender when slow-cooked at low temperatures.

In an Instant Pot, goat heart and tongue cook in about 30 minutes. Beef and big game organs take about an hour. The only additions needed are a few whole peppercorns and cloves, a bay leaf, a generous shower of salt and a good glug of apple cider vinegar.

Taking the fear factor out of eating organs is as simple as making tacos. The only inspiration needed is traditional preparations of “lengua” at taco trucks and stands in almost every U.S. region.

I kept my tacos simple with garden-fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, a few shreds of cabbage and a dollop of salsa. Given more time, I would have roasted some fresh tomatillos for salsa and quick-pickled some sliced chiles, carrot and onion.

More hands-on is liver paté, which involves cooking the sliced organ with aromatics and spices, deglazing with wine, allowing it to cool and then pureeing with butter. Then I pack it into 4-ounce jars and freeze the majority of the batch for consumption over several months.

Forget hummus. This is my favorite, protein-packed pick-me-up with crackers and fruit or fermented veggies.

Liver from goat — and other humanely raised animals — is about as wholesome as traditional foods get. By contrast, organs from factory-raised animals are repositories of impurities from their feed and supplements, not to mention the stress of their living conditions. Eat liver and other organs from animals that aren’t just organic but raised responsibly and sustainably.

The easiest way to do that in Southern Oregon and other rural communities is to network with animal husbandry organizations, such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America. Advisors often are small-scale ranchers with livestock to sell. Members raise animals to show and auction, but they usually have “backups” as an insurance policy against their primary show animals sickening prior to fair.

That’s how I secured my goat — the student’s backup animal — months prior to the fair. When its role was fulfilled, a mobile slaughter service stepped in and sent the animal to one of the valley’s custom butcher shops. Including all the fees for dispatching the goat, cutting and wrapping the meat, in addition to the student’s cost for raising it, I paid about $10 per pound.

If buying meat on the hoof is too much of a commitment, more local outlets of sustainable, wholesome protein offer retail cuts. Browse farmers markets and independent grocery stores, keep an eye out for signs on rural properties advertising their meat for sale and consult publications such as the Rogue Flavor Guide, produced by Rogue Valley Food System Network.

Liver Paté

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), softened and divided

1/2 pound mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped

1 bunch scallions (white and light green parts), cleaned, trimmed and sliced

1-1/2 pounds liver, sliced

Sea salt, to taste

1 teaspoon ground mustard

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 cup dry white wine, sherry or Marsala

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have released their liquid and are starting to brown. Add the sliced scallions, stir and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

Return skillet to medium heat, add another 2 tablespoons of butter and the sliced liver. Sprinkle liver with the salt and mustard and allow to cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, until starting to brown, turn liver slices and cook on second side for another 2 minutes.

Add the garlic and thyme; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Pour in the wine, stir and allow to simmer for several minutes until wine has evaporated. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool before adding to sautéed mushrooms in food processor bowl.

When liver has completely cooled, process until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and taste for seasoning, adding more salt, if needed. Process to a smooth paste. Add the 1 stick softened butter and continue processing to incorporate completely.

Transfer paté to airtight containers and freeze or keep refrigerated for up to a week. Thaw, if frozen, and serve with good-quality bread or crackers.

Makes about 2 cups.

Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at thewholedish@gmail.com.