After reading Conor’s post in which he showed us how to prepare delicious roast leg of goat, I got curious and wanted to try goat meat, too. Now there are a lot of goats in the Netherlands, kept primarily for milking, but since there is no local market for the meat it all gets exported. And so although lamb is easily available everywhere, I’ve never seen goat at a butcher’s, let alone a supermarket. But some googling revealed that there is a goat farm in Amsterdam that sells goat meat to the public. Unfortunately it is frozen, but that is better than no goat at all and so I came home with a nice piece of goat neck with beautiful marbling. It is meat from a young goat that is between 5 and 7 months old (called “chevon” in the Netherlands). (Click here to find out where to buy goat meat in the Netherlands.)
I didn’t have to think very long about what to do with it, as Italian cuisine is always my first port of call when I am thinking about how to prepare something. In the town of Nereto in Abruzzo, goat is stewed and then served with fried bell peppers and pearl onions. That sounds great, and so that is what I did with my first attempt at preparing goat. It came out delicious, similar to lamb but not quite. If you can’t find goat, you could easily substitute lamb in this recipe. I cooked the goat sous-vide, but stewing on the stovetop or in the oven is also possible.
As with all Italian traditional recipes, there are many versions of capra alla neretese. The constant factors are goat meat (duh!), bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and wine. Other common ingredients are rosemary and cloves. The wine can be either white (Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, which by the way is not the same grape variety as Trebbiano Toscano, also known as Ugni Blanc) or red (Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, not to be confused with sangiovese-based Vino Nobile di Montepulciano). I opted for the red, since I thought it would be nice to drink the balance of the bottle with the dish.
For 2 servings
450 grams (1 lb) goat neck, or other goat stewing meat
2 red bell peppers
250 ml (1 cup) tomatoes (fresh, passata or from a can, pureed in the food processor)
1 onion, minced
1 stick celery, minced
a handful of pearl onions (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 chilli pepper (fresh or dried)
1 sprig rosemary
2 strips of lemon peel (from an unwaxed lemon)
80 ml (1/3 cup) wine (Trebbiano d’Abruzzo or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut 450 grams of goat stewing meat into cubes, pat them dry with paper towels, and season on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan or casserole, and brown the meat over high heat…
…on all sides.
Take out the meat and set aside on a plate.
You should never brown meat in a non-stick pan, because the most important reason for browning is to develop flavor. You should also always use the browned bits that get stuck to the pan during browning and include them in the dish.
To this end, add a minced onion and a minced celery stick to the pan, and season lightly with salt. Add two strips of lemon peel, a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf, and a chilli pepper.
Stir over medium heat, making sure to scrape the bottom with a wooden spatula to include all of the flavor, until the vegetables are golden, about 10 minutes.
Deglaze with 80 ml of wine.
Add 250 ml of tomatoes.
To cook sous-vide, bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
If you are not cooking sous-vide, this is a good time to add the meat. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring, until the meat is tender.
Simmer the sauce until it is no longer watery.
Remove the rosemary, bay leaf, and lemon peel. (If you leave them in, they could overpower the flavor of the goat.)
Add the goat meat, stir to mix. If using a chamber vacuum sealer, allow the meat and sauce to cool to refrigerator temperature before vacuum sealing, as otherwise the low pressure will cause the contents of the bag to boil (as the boiling temperature is lower at low pressure), which is not good for the texture of the meat.
If using a ziplock bag, transfer the meat and sauce to the bag, and close it with as little air as possible using the water displacement method.
To transfer the meat and sauce into a bag, there are two tricks I use to do this cleanly:
- Fold the edge of the bag twice before filling the bag, so you have a clean ‘sleeve’ when you unfold the edge for sealing.
- Put the bag in a tall wide cylinder (like a big measuring jug) to keep it upright and open while filling it.
To vacuum seal in a chamber vacuum sealer, put the bag in the chamber with the sleeve extending past the sealing bar.
Close the cover and activate the vacuum sealer. At first it seems like nothing happens. The air is removed from inside and outside the bag, so it doesn’t collapse. This is also why you can vacuum seal liquids in a chamber vacuum sealer.
At the end, the bag is sealed and then the air is let in. The bag will now collapse.
And voilà: vacuum sealed goat with sauce. Cook this sous-vide for 24 hours at 74C/165F. This time and temperature will make the goat fork tender and give it the flaky texture of a traditional stew. The advantage compared to stewing on the stovetop or in the oven that it will always be consistently tender and moist and doesn’t need any tending, while a stovetop or oven stew will require you to monitor and stir regularly, and it may still end up tough and/or dry.
The next day, about an hour before you would like to serve the dish, start preparing the bell pepper and (optional) pearl onions. (You could also do this the same day you prepare the goat and reheat the peppers and onions to serve with the goat.)
Clean the bell peppers and cut them into large strips or chunks. Peel the pearl onions (which is easier if you blanch them first in boiling water). Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add the bell peppers and onions. Season with salt and stir for a couple of minutes.
Cover the pan and lower the heat. Cook over low heat, stirring regularly…
…until the onions and peppers are tender, about 45 minutes. If you like the bell peppers to have more bite, start with the onions only and add the bell peppers later.
When the onions and peppers are done, take the goat out of the sous-vide.
Strain the juices into the pan with the peppers and onions using a sieve. Reserve the cooked meat.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened.
Now add the meat to the sauce, and stir briefly over medium heat until just warmed through. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve on preheated plates. If you like, you could serve it with mashed potatoes (made Italian style with extra virgin olive oil instead of milk or cream).
A wine from the region is always a good idea with dishes like this, and this Montepulciano d’Abruzzo worked very well indeed. To work well with a stew, it is best if the wine has had some years of bottle aging.
Pasta with romanesco and sausage is simple and tasty, and takes only as long to prepare as it takes to cook the pasta.