“I’d like to see you move up to the goat class, where I think you belong.” -Iconic American science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick, in his 1968 Blade Runner-inspiring story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Before you all start grossing out on me and moaning “ewwwww, goat” at your computer screen, consider this: you’ve probably had goat cheese before, and you probably quite like it, too. Goat cheese is made from goat milk, of course, so why not give the meat a try too? The New York Times says it’s the most “widely consumed meat in the world,” but Wikipedia begs to differ, placing it fourth behind pork, beef, and chicken (a ranking which frankly makes a bit more sense to me). Either way, let’s just be real about it and admit this: America seems to be missing out yet again on deliciousness the rest of the world seems to have caught onto long ago. There is nothing “gross” about goat meat at all. It isn’t gamey, it isn’t texturally foreign, it’s relatively lean, and it’s generally not factory-farmed in this country. Goat isn’t a bad way to go, meat-wise. And you know what? Goats are kind of awesome. They are curious and intelligent, they faint out of nowhere, and they make us giggle like idiots.
As if that weren’t enough, they are also delicious in a taco. (What can’t these four-legged wonders do?) Now, I know I live in Brooklyn and we’re not supposed to understand these things here, but I assure you that, regardless of my current physical location, tacos are a matter of utmost importance in my family. Take comfort in knowing that they’d never let me screw this up. Without a doubt, it’s easy enough to throw a bunch of stuff on top a tortilla or inside a taco shell on Tuesday night, but it’s a lot more interesting to truly craft components that are complimentary and are made from excellent ingredients. I really learned to make tacos during my stint in the kitchen of Palo Santo in Park Slope, under my friend Jacques Gautier‘s tutelage. From him I learned that good, fresh ingredients are crucial, that you can’t make a good taco without a good tortilla (at the restaurant we made our own), and that fresh cilantro leaves, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice work wonders in the finishing process.
The recipe below is just for the braised goat shank portion of the recipe. For the other toppings I used cooked pinto beans, raw tomatillo salsa (recipe can be found here), sliced avocado, shaved radish, queso fresco, fresh cilantro, and fresh lime as accompaniments. Feel free to change up the other parts according to what you like: I’d also suggest hot sauce, tomato salsa, crema or sour cream, guacamole, cotija cheese, (pickled?) red onion, grilled corn, cabbage, black beans, pickled chiles…..the options are endless.
Taco Tuesday just grew a goatee.
Neutrally-flavored oil, such as vegetable or canola
3-5 goat shanks (NOTE: They look like this, and are much smaller than lamb shanks.)
1 medium onion, washed, trimmed, peeled, and cut into large chunks roughly 1/2″ in size
1 medium carrot, washed, trimmed, peeled, and cut into large chunks roughly 1/2″ in size
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup tequila (NOTE: This isn’t the place for your expensive stuff. Save that for shots. I used Sauza Blanco here.)
Enough salt-free (homemade, if possible) chicken stock or beer (or a combination of both) to come 1/3-1/2 way up the meat inside the pan (NOTE: I’d say about 1 1/2 bottles of beer or about a pint and a half of stock, but this will vary based on amount of stuff in the pan and pan size/shape. If you are using store-bought stock, opt for a low-sodium variety.)
1 large clove garlic, washed, smashed, peeled, and left whole
1 bay leaf
1 dried ancho chile
1 dried guajillo chile
1 dried chile de arbol
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
5 whole cloves
8-10 whole black peppercorns
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Good-quality corn tortillas, for serving
1. Place a sturdy pot over medium-high heat on the stove. (NOTE: The pot should be big enough to hold all of the shanks in one layer. I used 3 shanks and a medium saucepan was fine.) Let the pot heat up for a few minutes. Meanwhile, season the goat shanks with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. When the pot gets nice and hot, add just enough of the oil to coat the cooking surface of the pan. Sear the goat shanks on all sides until nicely browned all over. You don’t want to over-crowd the pan here, so work in batches if necessary. Reserve the seared shanks to a plate, dump any excess fat, and return the pan to the stove over medium-low heat, keeping all of the brown bits intact.
2. Add a bit more oil, swirling to coat the cooking surface. Add the onion, carrot, and tomato paste. Stir quickly to coat with the oil. Cook until softened and the vegetables have taken on a bit of brown color, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes or so. Carefully add the tequila, and scrape up all of the brown bits from the pan with a wooden spoon. Allow the tequila to reduce by about 1/2. (NOTE: Be VERY careful when adding the tequila. Tequila will ignite if it comes into contact with the flame so make sure your hair and face are out of the way. You can even remove the pot briefly from the stove and then put it back.)
3. Return the shanks to the pan with the vegetables. Add the stock/beer, garlic, bay leaf, ancho chile, guajillo chile, chile de arbor, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming away any foam, scum, or excess fat that comes up to the surface. Once the pot reaches a nice rapid boil, turn it back down to a nice, gentle simmer (NOTE: Usually 3-4 out of 10 on the dial), cover tightly, and braise for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until meat is very soft and falls away from the bone with just a fork. Alternatively, cover tightly and braise in the oven at a low temperature for the same amount of time. You should be good to go in the oven at 250ºF – 300ºF.
4. Remove shanks to a plate and allow to cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Pour the strained liquid back into a small pot and place on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce until you have a sauce that can coat the back of the spoon, similar to a gravy. (NOTE: You won’t have much left in the pan. That’s ok.) Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. When the meat is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to shred it apart. Discard bones and toss shredded meat together with sauce.
5. Warm the tortillas in a non-stick skillet or carefully with tongs over a stove-top flame. Fill with shredded goat meat and add the toppings of your choice.
Yield: 3 shanks is probably good for a couple, and maybe you’ll even have a few leftovers (nachos anyone?). 5 will probably be good for a family of 4 that has small kiddos, so long as you’ve got some sides on the table (like rice, corn on the cob, salad, etc.). Any amount of shanks is a good amount of shanks as far as I’m concerned.