Goats are cute. And unfortunately for them, they are also tasty.
The beloved, beady-eyed petting zoo favorites are considered delectable in many parts of the world. This includes in much of Southern California, where Mexican bírria – a spicy and much-eaten goat stew– is hardly a rarity.
But there are less common goat delicacies in these parts that merit a try. Notably is a savory Hatian dish of marinated, slow-roasted goat, referred to there as cabrit or kabrit.
Hatian-style cabrit is very different from bírria, in which the goat meat is served with a spicy broth. But done right, no broth is needed, as the meat is delectably tender. Those who grew up with it sing its praises, although there are the inevitable goat-related childhood stories.
Gary Dauphin, a Los Angeles writer and director of new media for KCET, remembers his first goat dinner while visiting his grandmother:
My first taste of kabrit was instructive on numerous levels.
During my first trip to Haiti at about 6, I spent most the summer befriending a goat my grandmother kept behind her house. As you would likely expect, they ended up serving her to me on my last night in Port-au-Prince. The odd mix of horror - that was a good goat! :( - and pleasure - that was a good goat! :) - I felt as I realized exactly what/who I was eating remains with me to this day.
I had my first taste of of the dish the other day at TiGeorge's Chicken, a Haitian restaurant just south of Echo Park. And I concur - that was a good goat. The meat in the "cabrit fricassee" was fall-off-the-bone tender. It was also surprisingly not gamy, gaminess being goat's bad reputation.
Proprietor and chef George Laguerre explained the preparation: A marinade of spices and fruit juices like key lime and sour orange followed by several hours' worth of cooking, along with a rendering process that involves adding cold water while the meat is cooking to remove fat, which tones down the gaminess. Most important is to have patience.
"Goat is a hard meat," Laguerre explained. "Some people try to cook it faster it using a pressure cooker, or using meat tenderizer, but that's not the right way to do it."
And so delicious Hatian-style roasted goat concludes a week of unsung ethnic delicacies, foods worth trying in spite of whatever bad rap they might have, be it an unappetizing look, name, or reputation.
We focused on meat dishes this time around, starting Monday with Hawaiian spam musubi, moving on to raw dishes like Armenian-style chee kufta and Ethiopian kitfo, then trying rabo encendido, a spicy oxtail stew popular in Caribbean Latin American countries whose name translates to "tail on fire."
I had to give myself a break after that one, so apologies for the goat coming later in the weekend. But it was a good goat, indeed.
Have an unsung ethnic delicacy to share? Feel free to post it below.