25 April 2011

Goat Meat Milk Cheese

It seems such an obvious statement: 70% of the red meat eaten in the world is goat meat. Duh. And yet, it never crossed my mind. I have eaten my share of goat meat...OK, clearly not my share as 70% of my red meat hasn't been goat. I have had a substantial amount of goat cheese.

Now one might think that writing a cookbook about a protein we Americans (and I use the term lightly) use sparsely would give the authors and air of superiority. We have all picked up those "holier than thou" cookbooks when the author manages to be condescending and didactic all at the same time. Well, Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough is not in that category. The authors are accessible and funny and informative... did I mention funny? If you never even look at a goat, you will get a big kick out of this book. (And if have read as many stuffy and overbearing cookery books as I have, you will be thrilled at the light yet thoroughly authoritative prose.) And where else, one might ask, will you ever find a cookbook that mentions, even in passing, Derrida?

The main problem with goat (aside from its slightly gamy aroma) is that the darn thing is bony. But hey, you eat quail and fish and they are bony. Got meat is also a mere 244 calories for a 6-ounce serving and less than half the fat of its nearest low fat challenger -- chicken. this could definitely start a Jenny Craig trend.

The book covers that gamut from sweet to savory or rather savory to sweet. There are stews, curries, moles and there are blintzes and brownies (my very favorite brownie is one swirled with goat cheese) and several preparations for cheesy concoctions like fondue and dip. Here is an accessible recipe for goat cheese dumplings. How can you beat that.

Baked Spinach-And-Goat-Cheese Dumplings

One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 ounces fresh chevre or soft goat cheese, at room temperature so that it’s very creamy
4 ounces hard, aged goat cheese, such as goat Gouda, finely grated and divided
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup semolina flour, plus more for rolling the little dumplings
1 tablespoon finely minced chives or the green part of a scallion
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon goat butter (or unsalted cow butter, if you must)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup regular or low-fat goat milk (or cow milk, if you must)
2 tablespoons dry white wine or dry vermouth

1. First, grab the frozen spinach in small handfuls and squeeze as hard as you can over the sink to get rid of as much excess moisture as you can. Put the bundles in a big bowl and use a fork to separate the spinach back into bits and threads.

2. Whisk in fresh chevre or goat cheese, half the grated hard goat cheese, the egg yolks, semolina flour, chives, salt, lemon zest, black pepper, and nutmeg. You want a creamy but somewhat stiff mixture, because you’re going to form it into balls.

3. Sprinkle a little more semolina flour onto a clean, dry work surface. Pick up a little bit of the spinach mixture, a little smaller than a golf ball. Roll this in the semolina flour to form an oblong ball, sort of like a football but without the pointed ends. Set aside and continue rolling more, adding more flour to your work surface as need be (but not too much, or the balls will turn gummy). You’ll end up with about 24 dumplings.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 5 or 6 dumplings. Lower the heat so the water barely simmers. Poach for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer dumplings from the pot to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or an oblong roasting pan. Then add 5 or 6 more dumplings to the pot and repeat the poaching process again — and again — until all the dumplings are done and in the baking dish or roasting pan. Why not just toss them all into the water at once? Because they’ll crowd the pot and stick together. You want enough space so they can bounce around freely in the simmering water.

5. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

6. Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Whisk in the all-purpose flour. Whisk over the heat for 30 seconds. Then whisk in the milk in dribs and drabs, a little bit each time to form a paste — and then more at a time, although never more than a slow, steady drizzle. Once all the milk is in the pan, whisk in the wine, raise the heat to medium, and whisk until bubbling and slightly thickened, just a minute or so.

7. Pour this sauce over the dumpling balls in the baking dish or roasting pan. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the dish. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

Mark my words, before long you will be seeing nifty goat trucks dotting the food scene and at least one NYC restaurant that offers up all goat, all the time. And you will have Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough to thank.

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