Sometimes I get an idea in my head about doing/creating/eating something and I just won’t let it go, until I get it out of my head and in to the world. It keeps me up at night, it peppers my conversation, it directs my reading. It might be a trip, a pop-up community event or a menu. Most recently, it was goat braised in goat milk.
I first read about this subversive dish in the cookbook Eat With Your Hands by Zac Pelaccio, chef of NYC’s Fatty Crab (I once ate a fat sandwich there. . . yum!). I loved the idea of so flagrantly breaking dietary law (mixing meat and milk is explicitly forbidden by the bible), exploring new protein (it’s not everyday goat is on the menu), and sourcing the relatively exotic and hard to come-by ingredients (I was heartened by a vague memory of seeing goat milk for sale at a Hy-Vee supermarket in Lee’s Summit, Mo.).
Of course, all things only become things by taking a first step, and then another, so I started making a list.
– Gather friendly, adventurous dinner guests
– Secure an interesting, welcoming location
– Pick a date
– Write the rest of the menu
– Shop. . . which necessitated its own list
I don’t normally shop at big supermarkets, preferring regular trips to one of my two small neighborhood markets. Their respective clientele reflect what I suppose are my two closest affinity groups: food snobs and the homeless. They know me and I know them. I can be in and out quickly, on my way here or there, but they don’t always have everything just when or how I want it.
Occasionally, then, when I need to do a big shop for a big event, I almost desire those wide florescent-lit aisles containing every packaged food-stuff the average American household might need. It could be so convenient, especially if I talk myself out of walking there.
Invariably, though, I’m not shopping for the average American household. I’m shopping for the proverbial goat.
I did look at the local supermarket’s meat counter for a package of goat — sometimes a supermarket in close proximity to an immigrant community can surprise — but alas not this time.
Instead my research led me to the Al-Hoda Market (also apparently known interchangeably as Al Barah) in Cambridge’s Inman Square. I read in the Globe that this Halal butcher kept his own trip of goats in New Hampshire that he slaughtered in accordance with the instructions of the Koran. If I were so blatantly breaking biblical law by boiling a kid in its mother’s milk (Exodus 34:26), I probably should hedge my bets and make sure one of the prophets was on board with my plans.
I called ahead to make sure they had goat in stock before hopping on the bus, the train, the other train, and walking a number of blocks in search of my kid.
Upon entering the small sparsely stocked florescently lit market, I was greeted with “salaam alaikum” (aka “peace to you”) by a young man hiding behind the counter, which I returned in kind (this phrase I first learned from binge watching some years ago that trailblazing Canadian sitcom “Little Mosque on the Prairie”).
I inquired about the goat. Yes. What part did I want? idk? For stew?
Summarily, I was escorted behind the counter and down the stairs to the basement meat locker, leaving the store upstairs un-kept. I waited just outside the freezer door as my muslim butcher rustled around, eventually emerging with an entire goat carcass. He wanted me to point out the part I wanted; I demurred and deferred. He eventually took the goat over to the bandsaw and sawed off some stew chunks and sent me on my way. I’m still not quite sure, what “part” I ended up with, but it was preposterously inexpensive.
Back home, I marinated my kid over-night in chilies, ginger and garlic, before transferring to the Le Creuset the next evening, adding more chilies, ginger and garlic, onions and carrots too, then dousing in the milk of its mother.
Many hours in the oven passed. Collagen melted. Chilies mellowed. The milk curdled.
Just before serving, and after removing the fort tender goat chunks, an immersion blender brought all the spicy, fatty, fragrant bits together into a silky, exotic sauce, a perfect compliment to the game-y goat and light bulgur.
At the end of the night, none of us were struck by lightening for our flagrant disobedience, but none of us, I think were keen to repeat the experience any time soon either.
Happy to have had the experience, I could once again sleep through the night, dreaming of the next idea to make a list for. . .