SIMMERED TO TENDERNESS: Goat stew.
In the former home of the Portland Spice Company, the International Market is open for business in a neighborhood packed with multicultural food offerings. A busy corridor for commuters, Vannah Avenue has always seemed to be a great location for a market, yet the space has turned over a several times in recent years. On a recent shopping trip, the generously sized store was quiet. The proprietors, a Somali family, have plenty of space to grow into, as several shelves and containers sat empty, waiting for contents. A few customers filtered in and out, without so much as a word uttered to the people behind the counter. Their lack of inquisitiveness was certainly their loss.
|International Market | 34 Vannah Ave, Portland | 207.772.4270|
A brief and somewhat labor-intensive conversation with the owner established that the market receives fresh local meats every Friday, and a sign atop the empty meat case advertised goat, beef, sheep, and lamb. I was going to be out of town, so I left with a few simple ingredients and designs on a goat stew. I sent my inquisitive foodie housemates to seek out the fresh meat in my stead.
On Friday, the shopkeeper excitedly motioned for them to join her behind the counter. Perplexed, my culinary conspirators were led to the walk-in cooler, where hung several whole goats, skinned and ready for carving. “Just one leg?” she asked. Wordless, they nodded, and she brandished a very large knife — the goat was now without one leg. Once again using more motions than words, she inquired if they would like the meat cut into pieces, measuring a small distance with her fingers. My housemates’ jaws dropped as the petite woman confidently donned an apron and gloves over her traditional clothing, and proceeded to dispatch the goat leg with a bandsaw.
The yield was four pounds of goat meat, with fat and bones intact, for $23.78. While some might skip these bits, it is marrow and fat that give stews richness, depth, and character. Since the International Market offers no fresh produce, and we already blew our budget on the meat, we’d make do with whatever happened to be in the pantry and fridge for accompanying ingredients.
The generous bag of goat meat was enough to make our meal and still freeze half for later. Preparing the stew could not be easier. In a large, deep-walled sauté pan, brown the chunks of goat meat in some olive oil, salting and peppering generously. Turn the pieces so that all sides of the meat get heat. Once browned, add some cooking liquid. Use broth or bouillon if you have it on hand, but water and seasonings work just fine. Once the liquid is just below a boil, turn to low and cover to simmer. As with any stew, the cooking time can be casual and fairly leisurely. This is of particular benefit to goat, which can sometimes be chewy and tough.
Simmer the goat for at least two hours, or until the meat pulls easily from the bone with a fork. Remove the bones and gristle from the pan, leaving large chunks of meat. Add curry seasoning and coconut milk from your pantry. Stews are largely accepting of any vegetables. For ours, some friends provided a small bag of garden vegetables, including a leek, red potatoes, and green beans. Use whatever you have on hand, or opt for no veggies at all. The starch from the potatoes, along with the coconut milk, thickens the stew as it continues to cook. Simmer uncovered for at least another hour or until it reaches the desired consistency. When finished, serve in a bowl over rice.
Todd Richard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.