Curried Goat. Yes, Goat.
Ten years ago, if you asked me whether I liked goat I would have looked at you askance, screwed up my face like you had suggested the New Kids On The Block would make a come back, and told you to beat it unless you were planning on buying me another beer. Then I ate some really, really great West Indian goat curry, which sparked in me an ongoing longing and craving for MORE really, really great goat curry. A great goat curry is rich and moreish; spicy but not overpoweringly hot, with a thick, meaty texture and deep dark layers of flavor that keep curling across your tongue and convincing you that one more bite is less of an option than a necessity.
I get it, though. Despite the fact that we’re just talking about the lean mean cousin of fatty lamb, it is still GOAT.
The average barnyard is an awful lot like high school. The chickens are Team Girl Squad, milling about on the driveway, around the lockers, swarming over table after table in the cafeteria, and basically building on space and sound as they travel around in a high pitched, impetuous, nattering brood. The pig is that guy who’s name you don’t know, but he’s always in the same uniform of relaxed fit jeans, an oversized hoodie, and a ball cap. The pig has a solid ‘C’ average, and he makes lewd comments about the chickens as they scatter by him, avoiding any eye or bodily contact. The rooster is a smart aleck, always pushing the limits just a little bit too far, and egocentrically strutting around all skinny chest and shoulders to cover up his crushing fear of failure (P.S. – the rooster is, like, so totally still a virgin and Carrie from Chemistry says he made up that story about getting drunk with Mandy outside the 7-Eleven last summer. Just sayin’). The cow, of course, is that cute guy on the football team who would have to be surgically separated from his worn in leather jacket and/or the colony of chicks which is constantly gathered around him. Every time he smiles you hear a slight *tiiiiinnng* and the sun shines a little bit brighter. Don’t even get me started on the horse, or that crazy look in her eyes.
Then you have the goat. Yes, the goat. You know the goat. You went to elementary school with the goat. He was still blowing spit bubbles and accidentally giving himself wedgies when he was thirteen years old. Then he had that growth spurt and got progressively more gangly and angular, with every part jutting out haphazard and discordant, like a barn cat in a bag of nails. One time you had to sit beside the urine-sweet smelling goat on a class trip to the museum and he stared, blinking his watery red eyes at you, for 20 minutes before finally wheezing out, “Did you know that I’m awwewgic to kale?”
But time goes on, my friends, and next thing you know you’re browsing Facebook on a lonely Tuesday night at 1 a.m. and you see that guy who has the same name as the goat but can’t possibly be. Sure, you have thirty five mutual friends, and your hometown is the same, and OKAY, maybe you’re both in the same scanned grade three picture, but….but….it just can’t be. The goat has transformed into a glossy haired heart breaker with a rapier’s wit, smug and certain smile, and a disconcerting habit of throwing mounds of software development money up into the air just to watch it drift away. The goat has come of age, and all of a sudden you look down at your worn out Lululemon yoga pants with the hole in the crotch and the Crocs that you swore you’d never buy but now own in seven different colors, and you wonder if maybe it was never about who the goat was at all. If only you had taken the time to get to know the goat, would things be different now that you’re older and mature? Maybe all that it would take is a dimly lit room with you, the goat, and a cold six pack of beer to make beautiful things happen. The time has come to get beyond your childish phobia and disdain for the goat, and embrace the goat for the lean but tender, curry loving gent that he is.
(And no, that was not a story about my life. AS IF I would ever wear Crocs)
Jamaican Curried Goat
- 2.2 lb (1 kg) bone-in cubes of goat meat (about 1.5″)
- 3 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 6 large cloves of garlic
- 1″ fat chunk of fresh ginger
- 1 heaping tbsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped *
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers **
- 1 tsp allspice berries
- 3 tbsp curry powder, divided ***
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 large green onions
- 1 bay leaf
- approximately 2 cups cold water
- 2 lb starchy potatoes (about 2-3 large)
- salt and pepper to taste
* Is fresh thyme necessary? No, but I’m in the process of finalizing my plan of Death By Neglect For Unfortunate Indoor Herbs. I figured that I could at least get a few good sprigs out of this plant before it finally pulled a dust to dust. On that note, if you were using dried thyme you would want to use about 2 level teaspoons, or roughly half as much.
** Scotch bonnet peppers are sometimes referred to as Jamaican peppers, Bahama Mamas, Bahamian peppers, and Martinique peppers. If you can’t find a bonnet by any other name, a good substitution is the slightly sweeter (but still potent) habanero. If you only like a moderate spice omit the second pepper.
*** I have problems. Serious problems. One of them is that I’m a spice collector, and right now my spice rack (and cupboard…and tupperware boxes) contain somewhere between 5-7 curry blends. Is this excessive? Absolutely. I get that. But I challenge you to surreptitiously make off with any one of them, because I’LL KNOW, and I’ll hunt you down for it. Curry powder is a spice blend, rather than a pure spice, and the regional variations are quite astounding which is why I’m happy to have made a temporary home for curry blends from Sri Lanka, India (x 2), Jamaica, Malaysia, Japan, and a big ol’ cheap jar of generic curry powder that I would use in a pinch if need be. Okay, that one you could steal and I wouldn’t mind. That said, because I know that not everybody has curry out the wazoo (make no jokes about late night post-bar chicken korma, please) so I made this with Johnny Generic as a test. It was fine. In fact, it was more than fine. So there you go. Feel free to use what you’ve got, and don’t feel compelled to shell out for a specialty West Indian curry powder unless you really feel the yen.
It wasn’t until I took that picture that I realized what massive (inherited) Costco-on-steroids style bottles of vegetable oil and white vinegar we have. Huh. That’s something, eh? But before you start mocking this excess, I would like to remind you that if Canada ever got attacked by furry space invaders, and we all had to seek shelter in the underground, and the only thing for us to eat was salad because maybe lettuce actually grows splendidly in the subway tunnels, and everybody was craving a really white trash vinaigrette, well, huh, I would TOTALLY be their hero. Just bear that in mind before you mock the goods.
Coarsely crush the allspice berries in a mortar and pestle, or pulse them in a spice grinder until they are mostly broken down.
Give the cubes of goat a quick rinse under cold running water and pat them dry before placing them in a large mixing bowl. Toss the goat cubes with the vinegar.
Dice the yellow onion (roughly 1/4″ chunks) and mince the garlic, peeled ginger, and one (1) of the two scotch bonnet peppers. Add these to the goat as well as the crushed allspice, roughly chopped thyme, and one (1) tablespoon of the curry powder. If you want a goat curry that has just a whiff of kick you can take out the ribs and seeds of the pepper before mincing it finely and omit the second pepper. For a medium heat, remove the seeds and ribs of both peppers. I like it hot and come hither, so everything goes into the bowl and I add a second whole pepper to the stew. It’s to your preference, but the more the merrier.
Mix everything together so that the goat meat is evenly coated before covering the bowl and leaving it in the fridge to marinate. You can let the goat marinate for as little as 2 hours or up to overnight if you have the time.
Remove the goat from the rest of the mixture, scraping off any bits of onion or the like which are stuck to it. Reserve both piles because they will be used momentarily.
Heat the oil up in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot set over medium high heat. Add the reserved onion mixture and saute until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Be sure that the heat is not too high and you’re stirring regularly because you don’t want the onions or garlic to start browning or burn.
Add the goat meat and remaining two (2) tablespoons of curry powder.
Cook the goat, stirring regularly, until the outside of each piece has sealed and started to brown, which takes about 5 minutes. While the goat is cooking, chop the green onions (white bottoms and green tops) into medium sized chunks of about a half inch. Add the green onion to the goat and let this saute together for another 2 minutes. The mixture will be very fragrant at this point, and some of the spice might be starting to stick to the bottom of the pot. This is absolutely alright.
Add two cups of cold water to the pot and stir, scraping along the bottom to loosen any bits of spice or meat that have chosen to cling. Cold water in a hot pan will loosen everything up just splendidly, as long as you stir vigorously along the bottom of the pot. This is how the Jamaicans be de-glazin’, mon. The water should just reach the top of the goat meat. If it doesn’t, add another little splash at a time (no more than 1 cup in total) until it does.
Drop in the bay leaf and the other whole scotch bonnet pepper (if what you choose to use of it). Turn the heat down to low because you want the stew to simmer rather than boil. Simmering will yield tender, succulent meat over time. Boiling will cause the meat to seize and immediately shrink up, taking significantly more time to undo the havoc you have just wreaked.
Cover the pot and let the pot simmer for about 1.5 – 2 hours, stirring every now and then when you remember. After the long simmer your goat should be tender and starting to pull away from the bone.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into large stew sized chunks, each about the same size as the cubes of meat. Stir the potatoes into the curry and let this cook, uncovered, for another 30 – 40 minutes.
You want to do the final stage of cooking without a cover on the pot so that the liquid can start to reduce, thickening with the starches released from the potato. The final texture should be more like a thick curry than a loose stew. If you added a touch too much water and need to keep the pot uncovered for another 20 minutes, so be it. The potatoes won’t mind.
By this time the goat and potatoes will be meltingly tender and richly flavored in the spicy curried gravy.
Serve the curried goat over boiled white rice, or the traditional rice and peas….which is a total misnomer, and despite my affection for rice and peas that always kind of niggles and eats away at me. There is rice, true, and I’m sure that at some point there were a variety of peas. However, rice and peas as we commonly know it is white rice simmered in coconut milk with kidney beans and occasionally garlic or herbs. Delicious, right? I agree. But I would be much happier if it was called “rice and kidney beans” or “long grain and legumes”. What can I say? I have no sense of whimsy.
This curry is baaaaad to the knuckled bone, it is.
Of course the leftovers are even better over the next few days, in all of their reheated glory, but you’ll forgive me if I say that they rarely last that long. As far as Jamaican curried goat goes, if you served this in a Styrofoam container with a grease stain and some dirty finger prints on top, anybody would believe that it came from your local Patty King. And yes, I think that’s a plus.
If you have never had goat, now is as good a time as ever to give it a try. With a long, slow simmer in spicy and richly flavored broth, you won’t be disappointed.