Introduction: Caribbean Curried Goat
This is absolutely mind-blowingly good.
Goat basically tastes like lamb, but is far leaner. (Lamb is the fattiest of the red meats.) It's very popular in a variety of different countries' cuisines, but for some reason has yet to gain a real following in the US.
This recipe is inspired by the curried goat roti from Penny's Caribbean Cafe. While Penny doesn't share her secrets, this tastes awfully similar. Go get yourself some goat (or lamb if you must) and try it out!
Step 1: Gather Tools and Ingredients
large pot (mine is 8 quarts)
cutting board & knife
5 pounds goat, with bones1, cut into stew chunks
5 large onions, chunked
5 T curry powder
5 boullion cubes and water, or equivalent in stock
~1/4c marsala or sherry (drinkable stuff; NOT the salted nastiness they sell for cooking)
3 carrots, minced (optional)
1/2 c split peas or red lentils (optional)
1-5 seranno peppers, minced (optional, for spiciness)
1-2 cloves garlic, grated (optional)
1 Yes, the bones are absolutely necessary. They add gelatin and lots of flavor, so even if you're not a fan of bones please leave them in. We'll be cooking the meat until it basically falls off the bones anyway.
Step 2: Chop Veggies
Peel your onions and chop into big coarse chunks.
This is partially because I am lazy, and partially because we'll be cooking the stew for a long time, and smaller onions would basically disappear.
If you're using carrots and hot peppers chop them up and add them now too, but be sure you've minced them into fairly fine bits.
Step 3: Saute
Saute onions in a bit of hot oil with the bay leaves. Add carrots and hot peppers if you're using them, and a sprinkling of black pepper.
As the onions soften and the bottom of the pan starts to brown, add the boullion cubes and stir. When the onions have caramelized and the whole thing starts to stick to the pan, add a splash (~1/4c) of marsala and stir/scrape it about to deglaze the pan. (This added liquid helps you save the fond, or tasty brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. It's of critical flavor importance - see notes on the Maillard reaction in step 5.)
Add the meat and half the curry powder, and stir to coat and brown the meat. Add a bit more marsala if necessary to keep things from sticking.
Step 4: Add Everything Else
If you're going to use the split peas, now's the time to add them. I don't usually bother, since the gelatin from the bones makes for a nice thick consistency even without adding beans, and they really doesn't seem to change the flavor very much. Your mileage may vary; try it and see what you like.
Add the rest of the curry powder and stir things about. When it starts to stick again add the water and deglaze again. Pour in just enough water to cover the meat, and leave a cup full of water near the pot to refill as it boils off. You want the meat to stay wet during the entire cooking process.
In the picture below I've dropped in another boullion cube because they didn't all make it in with the onions. The details really don't matter too much in this dish - it cooks long enough that you've got LOTS of leeway to taste and modify.
Step 5: Cooking, and the Maillard Reaction
Simmer your stew for about about 2 hours, stirring and adding water as needed. Check the meat periodically - we're aiming for fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth tender.
You may put the lid on to bring it up to temperature more quickly - if so, be sure to leave the lid cocked to allow steam to escape, and remove the lid once you've reached a simmer. I use the wooden spoon as a handy prop.
You can also speed the cooking process by using a pressure cooker; however, I wouldn't recommend doing the entire thing under pressure, as there are significant flavor differences when the simmered stew reacts with the air.
The Maillard reaction, an interaction between carbohydrates and amino acids under high heat, is the source of all kinds of wonderful brown colors and complex meaty flavors. However, Maillard browning needs temperatures of at least 250F, which usually only happens under dry heat. Even the higher temperatures reached during pressure cooking don't produce much in the way of Maillard reaction products, and you won't get them in a crock pot slow cooker.
What does this mean for you?
1) It means you should leave the lid off of your pot as it cooks, since all the tasty Maillard reactions will be taking place at the top of the pot, as a bit of skin forms around the outside edges. Keep mixing this skin and the dry bits that stick to the side of the pot back in, as they've got the best flavor. Think of it as a fond, just formed on the side of the pot.
2) If you do use a pressure cooker, be sure to add some extra lid-off cooking time on either end of the process. About 30 minutes (at 15psi, natural release) should be sufficient for making the meat melty, and another 30+ minutes of boiling with the lid off should allow for some nice Maillard reaction products to form around the edges.
Note that this business with Maillard reactions, lids, and alternate cooking methods applies to most any stews or soups - leave your lids off and scrape the sides to take best advantage of this tasty browning reaction.
Step 6: Finish, Serve, and Store
How do you know when it's finished?
1) The meat is incredibly tender and falling from the bones.
2) The sauce tastes richly meaty (from those Maillard reactions!)
3) The sauce has reduced, and is as thick as you want it to be.
Now just taste it, and adjust the seasonings. You can add a bit more salt, pepper, allspice, marsala, or curry as desired; if you add more marsala or curry, be sure to let it simmer another 5 minutes to properly assimilate the flavors.
Serve either in bowls as a stand-alone stew, or over rice or the starchy substance of your choice. The bones are delicious, so don't be shy about picking them up and sucking the marrow out for extra flavor. The cartilage on the ends of the joints should have become wonderfully melty as well, so try it - you may like it.
As with most stews and curries, this one becomes even better after overnight refrigeration. It will likely coagulate in the fridge (remember all that gelatin?) but will resume its stewy consistency upon reheating.