With five-hour goat on my mind, I bought a 3 1/4 pound Goat Leg at the Saturday Farmers Market from Marin Sun Farms [$26]. I’d been looking since the Five-Hour Goat story appeared in the New York Times the first of April.
Monday, I took the fine looking goat leg out of the refrigerator at 12:30 and, still wrapped, checked to see if it would fit in one of my Dutch ovens; wouldn’t. The leg had a four-inch Frenched bone protruding out of the meat. What to do? I could take it to Whole Food and have the butcher there whack off the bone. That would be uncool. Better idea… go to Cole Hardware and buy a small hacksaw.
The Palestinian convenience store is a few doors down from Cole; intimidated by the 26 cloves of garlic, I walked over and bought two heads, just in case. Six bucks for the hacksaw, two bucks for the garlic, $26 for the leg; enough for two or three meals, pretty good.
I sawed off the bone and the leg fit nicely in my blue oval Le Creuset pot.
Then I had to face the caul, a thin membrane encasing the leg like shrink-wrap. I’m familiar with peeling the membrane off the bone side of ribs, that’s pretty easy. Cut a place to get a finger hold and just peel off the membrane. This was another matter. This caul was tough and directly against the meat and sometimes it slid below a thin layer of meat. I managed to get a finger hold and lift up the leg by the membrane and run my carving knife along the inside of the membrane. It took time and effort, but I was successful. A real butcher probably has a technique for this.
Now, slice three cloves of garlic, make many small incisions in the meat and stick in the garlic slices. That wasn’t hard, but I learned that if you slice the garlic too thin, it crumbles during the insertion process.
Peel 20 cloves of garlic. (There are more than 20 cloves in a head, so I really didn’t need to buy extra garlic.) Slice an onion, peel some carrots and the prep is done; but what with getting a saw and sawing and cauling and stuffing garlic, it took until nearly 2 o’clock before I slid the pot into the oven.
This recipe was attached to a story “How I Learned to Love Goat Meat,” By Henry Alford in the New York Times. It’s based on a recipe by Anthony Bourdain in his “Les Halles Cookbook” for a six to seven pound, 7-hour leg of lamb. Mr. Alford wrote his recipe for TWO goat legs to make up for the smaller legs. I have the “Les Halles Cookbook” – its one of my favorites – so I looked up the original recipe. Mr. Alford left out the part about sealing the pan.
“In a medium bowl, combine one cup of flour and one cup of water to form a rough “bread dough,” mixing it well with a wooden spoon. (Don’t worry; you don’t have to eat it.) Use the dough like grout or caulking material to create a seal that connects the lid to the Dutch oven. Place the Dutch oven in the oven and cook for 7 hours. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and break the seal. Ideally, that leg of lamb will be so damn tender that you’ll be able to eat it with a spoon.”
Since Mr. Alford didn’t seal his pot, I didn’t seal my pot. When I checked after four hours, the goat was pretty dry, but quite tender when I stabbed it with a paring knife. I added a little broth and a little wine and put it back in the oven for 40 minutes more… turned off the oven and let it sit while I made rice and a salad.
Indeed, I carved the goat using a soupspoon and tongs… I was able to pull out the bone with my fingers.
That goat was moist and tasty. The only drawback was there was hardly any jus. Perhaps I should have sealed the pot after all.
Adapted by Henry Alford for the NY Times from “Les Halles Cookbook,” by Anthony Bourdain (Bloomsbury, 2004) Mr. Alford wrote his adaptation for two goat legs, I further adapted for one goat leg, gracious plenty for up to 4 folks.
Time: 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, plus 15 whole peeled garlic cloves
1 3- to 4-pound goat leg, trimmed of fat and caul
Salt and ground black pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
1 bouquet garni
1 cup dry white wine.
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Use a paring knife to make many small incisions around each leg, inserting a slice of garlic in each (use 3 cloves for each leg).
2. Place legs in a large heavy Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Rub meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add whole garlic cloves, onions, carrots, bouquet garni and wine.
3. Place lid on pan and place in oven. Braise legs until meat is very tender and almost falling off the bone, 5 to 6 hours. Check occasionally to be sure contents do not become dry, adding water as necessary.
4. When done, transfer meat and vegetables to a platter and keep warm. Skim fat from surface of liquid in pan. To serve, cut meat off bones and place in wide shallow bowls with onion, carrot and garlic. Top with broth spooned from pan.