Apr 272014
 

Goat tagine with pita

I feel a little conflicted posting this. One the one hand, goats are one of my favorite animals. They are bursting with personality and fun and they’re incredibly playful, though they have a knack for getting into trouble. I got to know a lot of goats (and other charming farm animals) pretty well at Hoofsnhorns Farm (my source for raw milk) when I lived in Tucson and they completely won me over with their goat-ish ways.

On the other hand, goat is delicious. Most of the rest of the world has caught on to this fact, but (much to my chagrin) goat remains somewhat difficult to find in the USA. Perhaps it has a reputation here for being gamey or tough, but if you use a good low-and-slow cooking method, you need not worry about that. So look for goat at a farmer’s market or perhaps at a Mexican grocery store, where it might be labeled something like cabrito or cabra.

Lucky for us (busy with both a fully-cooked and an in-progress baby), the slow-cooker comes to the rescue once again and delivers something that tastes like you slaved over a hot stove all day, instead of alternately sending your toddler down the slide in a continuous loop and then crashing on the couch every ninety minutes (which I wouldn’t trade for the world, but there’s no arguing that it can be challenging to put a satisfying and nutritious meal on the table under such conditions). Moroccan tagines and other braises are well-suited to this sort of fix-it-and-forget it cooking.

And now I shall have to cut this commentary short and go get horizontal, because cooking a human (gestating! I’m not actually cooking anyone!) is way more exhausting than cooking any meal I’ve ever eaten!

Goat tagine with pita

Slow-Cooked Goat Tagine With Pita
Adapted from The Crepes of Wrath and Smitten Kitchen
Serves 8

Notes:

  • You could make this two different ways: the super-simple dump-everything-in-the-slow-cooker method, or you could go slightly more involved (and get better flavor) and brown the meat and make an optional quick goat stock. Instructions for both are found below.
  • I highly recommend making the quick goat stock that I outlined below. It takes exceptionally little effort but will pay out big flavor dividends. Plus, I think it’s weird to use chicken stock or beef stock willy-nilly when you’re cooking a completely different kind of animal.
  • Don’t trim all of the fat from the meat. This is a braise, so you need fat to keep it from drying out. Goat is not an extremely marbled meat to begin with (like a braising meat from a cow would be), so please, leave some fat on the meat!
  • If you can’t find goat meat, lamb will work too.
  • This pita is one of the easiest breads out there. If you’re thinking about dipping your toes into the yeast-bread-pool, this is a great introduction. I highly recommend mixing the dough well-ahead of baking because it allows for optimal flavor development and may be easier to fit into your busy schedule.
  • If you don’t want to make pita, a spiced rice pilaf is a nice accompaniment too.
  • Ok, I had no idea there were so many kinds of paprika before embarking on this recipe. If you don’t have smoked paprika, I wouldn’t suggest using sweet or Hungarian as a substitution. Something like smoked chipotle powder would be more appropriate, and I’d use a good chile powder as a runner-up, and if neither of those were available, then I’d reach for another type of paprika. Keep in mind that if you use something like a chipotle powder, it will increase the heat quotient of the dish, so you may want to reduce the amount of red pepper flakes you use.
  • Tomato paste may seem like an odd addition here, but it is full of flavor-enhancing glutamates, which will help counter-act the dulling effect that slow-cookers tend to have on flavor.

You will need:

  • For the pita:
    • 3 cups plus a scant 1/4 cup (16oz/454g) unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons table salt
    • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
  • For the tagine:
    • 2 1/2 – 3 pounds of goat shoulder or leg (bone-in)
    • Several tablespoons olive oil (if browning goat)
    • 2-4 cups water (if making quick goat stock)
    • 2 tablespoons ras el hanout, toasted in a skillet (either from the recipe that follows or store-bought)
    • 3 saffron threads, crumbled (optional)
    • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 small or medium onion, halved pole-to-pole and thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden, clumps broken apart before cooking
    • 2/3 cup dried chickpeas (soaking is not necessary) OR 1 14-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
    • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, plus more for garnish
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
    • If not making a quick goat stock: 2-3 cups beer, white wine or beef stock for your braising liquid (use the greater amount if you’re adding dried chickpeas)
    • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  • For the ras el hanout (skip this if using store-bought ras el hanout):
    • 1 teaspoon chile powder
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
    • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

To prepare:

  1. For the pita: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed just until all the flour is moistened, about 20 seconds. Change to the dough hook, raise the speed to medium and knead until the dough cleans the bowl and is very soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch (5-10 mintues). Add a little flour or water if necessary.
  2. Using an wet or oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 2-quart or larger dough-rising container or bowl. Press the dough down and cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days), checking every hour for the first 4 hours and pressing it down if it starts to rise. Alternately, you can let the dough rise for about an hour and a half at room temperature instead of refrigerating it.
  3. One hour before baking, pre-heat the oven to 475°F. Have an oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone, cast-iron skillet, or baking sheet on it before pre-heating.
  4. Cut the dough into 8 or 12 pieces (I use my kitchen scale to help me get uniformly-sized pieces). Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with a damp cloth, inverted bowl, or oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  5. Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking. A couple of minutes before baking, spritz each piece of dough with some water, which will help them puff.
  6. Quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone (this is easier if you use both hands — I don’t recommend using the corn-tortilla method here!) or in the skillet or on the baking sheet, and bake for 3 minutes (note: if you are using a large baking stone or sheet, there is absolutely no reason why you couldn’t cram four or five of them onto the sheet at once). The pita should be completely puffed but not beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. If it’s not puffing well, spritz the dough a bit more.
  7. When done, transfer the bread to a clean kitchen towel with a spatula and wrap it well to keep it soft and warm. Repeat with remaining dough, allowing five minutes between batches for the oven and stone to re-warm.
  8. Serve the pita with the tagine. If they are a little tough and chewy, briefly re-heat them in the oven or in a cast-iron skillet until soft.
  1. For the tagine: trim some of the fat (see note above) from the goat and de-bone it, saving the bone. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces.
  2. (You could skip this step if you’re pressed for time, but I don’t recommend it.) Brown the meat: heat some of the oil over medium heat. Add the goat to the skillet (without crowding), browning on all sides, and remove the meat when done. De-glaze the pan with a little water between batches, if needed (you don’t want the stuff on the bottom of the pan to burn because it will add a lot of flavor to your tagine), pouring off the water and saving it for the goat stock or slow-cooker. Repeat until all the goat is browned. If making goat stock, do this step about four hours before you will start cooking the tagine.
  3. (Skip this step if you are using a braising liquid like beer.) Make the goat stock: in a saucepan, combine the goat bone, the de-glazing liquid, and about 3 cups water (make sure the bone is completely submerged). Simmer for about 4 hours, then remove the bone (save it again!) and reduce the liquid to two cups, or add liquid to bring the level up to two cups.
  4. In your slow-cooker, combine the browned goat, the goat bone, the goat stock OR the reserved de-glazing liquid plus 2 cups of your chosen braising liquid, and the rest of the tangine ingredients. Stir to combine, then place on low heat for 6-7 hours (preferred) or high for 4 hours. Taste, adjust seasonings as needed, then serve alongside rice or bread with plenty of juices from the pot and garnish with some chopped parsley and additional toasted pine nuts. Serve with a side, perhaps a Moroccan cauliflower dish.

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