Monday, June 14, 2010

Get Your Goat

My cousin Christy was coming for a visit last weekend, and Robin, Dave, and I wanted to make her a special dinner as an early birthday celebration. She requested a tagine made with either veal or lamb, as she knew we have access to local meat that's humanely raised. We had recently purchased some goat kabob meat from Riverslea Farm in Epping at the Portsmouth Farmers' market, so we asked Christy if she would mind having her birthday tagine made with goat instead. Happily, she agreed.

Some people are skeptical about goat meat, fearing it will be tough and taste strong and, well, "goaty". We've found the goat meat we've bought at the Farmers' Market to be tender and delicious. Usually we have chops, so we were eager to cook with the kabob meat. We were also excited to try our new, bright red Le Creuset Moroccan Tagine. It's basically a shallow enameled dish with a tight-fitting conical lid, which keeps everything moist during the long simmer that makes a tagine so delicious.

Dave looked through a pile of cookbooks before deciding to adapt David Tanis' recipe for chicken tagine with pumpkin and chickpeas for the goat -- and for spring. Tanis, who spends half the year as chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and the other half living in Paris, had suggested that tomatoes could be substituted for the pumpkin. As we happened to have a can of chopped tomatoes in the pantry, we were all set.

The spices in both the goat and the chickpeas are fragrant and heavenly. Dave substituted his favorite maras pepper for the freshly ground black pepper called for in the recipe. It's bright red, with a deep flavor -- there's some heat, but it's not overwhelming. Long before we ate, the smells coming from the kitchen were exotic and inviting. And when we finally sat down, we had a meal worth celebrating.

Goat Tagine with Tomatoes and Chickpeas
Based on the recipe for chicken tagine with pumpkin and chickpeas in A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis
Serves 6

1 lb. (2 cups) dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) , picked over and soaked overnight in cold water (I used the quick-soak method from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, a great basic cookbook: put the chickpeas in a pan, cover with cold water to cover, boil for two minutes, then soak for 2 hours in the cooking water, drain, then cook in fresh water per your recipe.)
1 large onion, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
A few cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Minced parsley

1 medium can of chopped tomatoes
Coarse salt
2 teaspoons maras pepper
3 pounds of goat meat cut for kebabs
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted and roughly ground
2 large onions, diced small
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons butter
6 garlic cloves, sliced
Large pinch of saffron
Red pepper flakes or cayenne

Harissa Oil (see recipe below)

1. To cook the chickpeas (or garbanzo):, drain the soaked chickpeas, put them in a saucepan, and cover with 3 quarts of water. Add the onion, cinnamon stick, cloves, a splash of olive oil, and a little salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently uncovered, for about an hour, or until the chickpeas are tender. Taste for salt
and adjust. Leave the chickpeas to cool in the cooking liquid.

1. Season the goat meat with a little salt, the cumin seeds, grated ginger, and the maras pepper. (If you don't have maras, use freshly ground regular pepper.) Set the meat aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. In a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions in a combination of butter and olive oil until softened. Season with salt and continue cooking until the onions are lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the sliced garlic cloves. Crumble the saffron over the onions. Stir the onions and season to taste with red pepper.
4. Arrange the onions in a tagine or shallow earthenware casserole (or two if necessary), and then top with the tomatoes and their juices. Now, put the goat over the tomatoes in one layer. Add 1/2 cup of chickpea cooking liquid or enough to barely cover the meat.
5. Cover the casserole and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the liquid is bubbling briskly. Reduce the
heat to 375 degrees and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, or so until the goat is tender and yields
easily to a probing fork. Take the casserole from the oven and skim any surfacing fat with a shallow ladle.
6. Warm the chickpeas in their cooking liquid, then drain and deposit them in a warmed bowl. Swirl in a little butter, the cinnamon, and some chopped parsley.
7. Give each diner a serving of goat with some tomatoes and a good ladle of broth, Spoon some chickpeas over each serving. Pass a bowl of the spicy harissa oil for drizzling

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon sweet paprika or mild ground red chile
1 teaspoon Aleppo, cayenne, or other powdered hot red chile
1 to 2 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little salt
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup olive oil
A few drops of red wine vinegar

1. Toast all the seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they are fragrant. Grind the toasted seeds in
a mortar or spice mill, then put them in a bowl.
2. Add the paprika, red pepper, garlic, and salt. Stir in the olive oil and vinegar. The harissa will keep in
the fridge for up to a week.
Makes about 1 cup.

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