Friday, May 9, 2014

Getting my goat…bolognese

This is not a Julia Child recipe.

It's not even French. I'm not even sure if the French eat goat. They must, considering all the things I've seen on the menus of restaurants in France. I mean, if you're going to eat snails, frogs (both very good), and horse, I can't imagine getting all squeamish over goat.

What I'm made was a goat bolognese. You can make practically anything into a bolognese. I had a delightful squab bolognese in a restaurant overlook Padua some years ago (they were tower-raised pigeons; I suppose that means they got to fly around).

I've done it with lamb (lamb shank, very slowly braised makes for a very nice Bolognese). I want to do it with duck (because I'm not getting squab). I do it with beef all the time, but you want some variation. So I chanced on goat.

The supermarket where I bought the beef for the beef bourguignon caters to the local Islamic population. They sell goat. There in the halal display case were goat chunks. Like, goat stew meat, right? Not exactly. When I tried to chop them up in the food processor, I realized that my pound and a half contained about a half a pound of bones. So, grabbed a knife and took the meat off the bones. Then I ground it and browned it a skillet. (The bones went into the freezer for later use for a small pot of meat stock.)

The goat about to simmer in stock and wine
The goat about to simmer in stock and wine.
From there, it was my much practiced technique for cooking a bolognese. The meat, once browned, started stewing in beef broth and Sangiovese (yeah, this is kinda ground beef version of beef bourguignon).

The same skillet was used for sweating the vegetables. I use a trick I saw on one of Jacques Pepin's shows: I put the chopped vegetables in the skillet and add some water. The water brings the vegetables evenly to temperature. As the water cooks off, the vegetables soften. No fear of scorching the sofritto. (If this were a French dish, I'd call it a mirepoix.) Once softened, the vegetables go into the pot.

Both this dish and the beef bourguignon are traditionally started with pork. Pancetta here, lardons in French cooking. I don't. I do all my sautéing in a light olive oil. The pancetta rendered in a small skillet while everything else was cooking. Once everything was together, I just walked away.

This is a recipe that takes time. A good, long simmer. I probably should have made it yesterday, or started in the morning instead of the afternoon. My advice: let it simmer. Let it cook slowly. A low heat as the connective tissue breaks down. This sat on the stove simmering for about three hours. I could have let it go even longer. That's the magic of this.

Working in the tomato paste
Working in the tomato paste
But I was getting hungry and didn't want to make something else. So, I finished cooking it down and added some tomato paste, pepper, and nutmeg. Then I added some milk and let it simmer for a bit. Standard bolognese. Now it was time to cook the pasta.

If I wanted to do this in the most authentic fashion, I would have been cooking homemade tagliatelle. And there is a little voice in my head that says I should be making tagliatelle more often (I do make them). However, instead of egg pasta, I went for convenience and the pasta was whole wheat penne.

We served this up with a Chianti. The only Sangiovese readily available is an inexpensive one from Trader Joe's. That went into the sauce. We prefer a Chianti instead.

Goat on pasta
Goat on pasta
But how did it taste? Goat is far milder than lamb and that had an effect on the sauce. It was good, though I would be hard pressed to actually tell the difference between beef and goat. If you're squeamish about goat, that is one thing to consider. It is also more sustainably raised than beef (though I wonder if that would persist if it were raised in sufficient quantity to slake our appetite for cow). And although I had a bit of prep work, I know that I could buy cuts of goat that didn't bring bones along.

It was a delicious meal. I would, if the whim struck me, make goat bolognese again.

Update: James thought it preferable to beef.

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