I don’t cook like a chef. I cook like a working mom. I can walk into the kitchen, see what we’ve got, and whip up a nice meal. I am queen of substitution and leftover transformation, as I hate to waste food and I also hate to eat the same thing every night. It helps that I am never without some basics (olive oil, onions, garlic) and that I have a lot of dishes up my sleeve (pastas, rice dishes, soups) that will use all our leftover vegetables and herbs gracefully with delightful results. I am adventurous, flexible and can adapt. I am the mother of invention.
Last night I set about thawing what I thought was stew beef and then assessed the situation. Onions, garlic, potatoes, and canned tomatoes I always have, and carrots I usually have. Half a container of mushrooms, half a bunch of spinach, and a few sprigs of thyme needed to get used up. Ingredients that on a cold day lend themselves to beef stew.
My aunt called me while I was chopping vegetables. We chatted awhile and she asked me what I was making for dinner. “Beef stew”, I told her. “What’s special about it? You’re not going to puree anything?” She’s been talking since they came over for dinner last week about the split pea soup I served, which was delicious, and pureed. I assured her everything was chunky and rustic, just regular American week-night beef stew.
But when I opened the bag of thawed meat and saw a hoof…I realized this might not be true.
We buy goat meat by the leg at the halal shop. They butcher it for you into one to two inch pieces, bone and all, and divide it into three or four 1 1/2 pound bags. Usually we make Achar Gosht, literally “Pickled meat,” which we make with the meat, some vegetables, chilies, and spices to eat with naan. It has a nice flavor, less gamey than lamb, and although it can be a little chewy, if you cook it right it falls right off the bone. There’s nice marrow in the bones too! (Ok now I’m probably grossing out not only vegetarians but a lot of people). It’s also leaner than beef with more protein. Goat is good.
I was actually happy about the unexpected goat meat and decided to continue with the original plan. I figured the meat itself would be a nice change, and the bones would make the sauce more flavorful, so I was excited to see how it turned out.
I lightly floured the chunks of meat, as this, plus the starchy potatoes, would help thicken the stew later. I browned them in two batches with a little olive oil, and removed them from the pot. I always brown my meat first, rather than throwing everything in the pot to boil away like Shan (an otherwise good cook) does, because this creates a Maillard reaction and enriches the flavor of the dish.
I added a little more olive oil (the flour had soaked it all up) and sauteed my rustically chopped onions and several roughly sliced cloves of garlic, then deglazed the pot with about 1/2 cup of red wine – even though our meat was halal, this recipe is not! Then I returned my meat to the pot with 3 thickly chopped carrots, 3 chopped potatoes, my half container of mushrooms, 3 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, maybe 1/2 can of leftover crushed tomatoes, a tbsp of tomato paste, sea salt, black pepper, 1tsp paprika, a spoon of dijon mustard, and chicken broth and water to cover. Whew, that sounds like a lot, but really it’s not. I gave it a stir, and simmered it, covered, low and slow for a good half an hour until the veggies were softened and the meat cooked through, and then another 10 minutes or so uncovered until it thickened up. I like to throw in something fresh and green at the end, so I tossed in a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach and 3 sliced scallions.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say not a lot of people have made this. Not a lot of people have goat meat in their freezer, and the ones that do are probably not making this type of stew. Maybe Irish farmers or something. We really loved it, it had a velvety gravy, and vegetables that were tender yet kept their integrity rather than becoming mushy and indistinguishable. The flavor was wonderfully balanced, lighter than you would get with beef, richer than you would get with chicken. Goat ftw.