A year-and-a-half ago, I was going through a divorce after more than 30 years of marriage, I was alone in my old house in China, Maine, not far from where I used to teach Chinese history at Colby College. One of the books left in Maine when my family and I moved to Chicago was an old Julia Child cookbook bought in Taiwan for a couple of dollars. As the founder of Gedalias Goat Farm, I had plenty of sweet succulent goat meat in my freezer. Why, it occurred to me, couldn't I substitute goat meat for beef in Julia's famous Boeuf Bourguignonne dish?
Since I used fat-free goat meat, it didn't seem right to make the dish with fatty pork bacon. I got turkey bacon and skipped the bacon rind Julia says will help create a flavorful fat in which to brown the stew meat. After crisping the turkey bacon in copious amounts of olive oil, the sweet rich flavor of goat with just a hint of bacon shined through the dish.
If you know Julia Child's original recipe, you'll notice I took other liberties as well. The meal has been a success every time I've made it. For the hard-pressed chef, the dish tastes as good when cooked a couple days in advance and reheated as it does fresh out of the oven:
Goat A La Bourguignonne
Twelve-Ounce Package of Lean Turkey Bacon (preferably thick sliced)
Half Cup of good Virgin Olive Oil (more if necessary)
3 Pounds Goat Stew Meat
1 Large Carrot
1 Large Leak
A Few Pinches of Ground Pepper
2 TB Flour (more if needed)
3 Cups Red Wine, preferably Argentinean Malbec
1 Thirty-two oz carton of non-condensed Low Sodium Beef Broth
1 Six Oz Can Tomato Paste
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Bay Leaves
1 Cube Unsalted Butter
A Pinch of Thyme
Two Dozen Small White Onions Preferably Pearl Onions
1 lb Large White Mushrooms
5 or 6 Parsley Springs
- Put the goat stew meat onto paper towels and pat it dry. To make sure that it dries well, leave the meat on the towel while you cook the turkey bacon.
- Pour about a quarter of a cup of olive oil into a large casserole pan (about 10 or 12 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep). Heat the oil under a medium flame. While the oil is heating, slice the turkey bacon into half inch bits. Add the turkey bacon bits to the hot oil. This is not easy to do, as the bits tend to stick together. You will need patience. Whatever you do make sure the oil does not overheat and the bacon burn. Watch carefully and remove the bacon bits into a bowl one by one when they crisp. You will be removing the bacon bits into a bowl rather than onto a paper towel because you want to preserve whatever oil drips from the bits. You are not only trying to cook the bacon but also to flavor the oil with a slight bacon flavor, even if it is just a turkey bacon flavor.
- Pat dry the goat stew meat again and then add the meat to the hot oil a few pieces at a time. Sauté each piece until it browns nicely. As the pieces brown, take them out of the pan and put into another bowel. If the oil gets sparse, use a sieve or slotted spoon to drain back into the pan the oil that has dripped to the bottom of the turkey bacon bowel. Do the same if you can with the meat bowel.
- Set the oven to 400º.
- While the oven is heating, slice the carrot and leak. Add them to the hot oil in which you've cooked the goat meat, sautéing the vegetables until they turn brown.
- Return the bacon and goat meat to the casserole pan with the vegetables. Sprinkle pepper onto the casserole. Pour in the flour a little bit at a time, turning the meat and vegetables so the flour coats them. Put the open casserole pan into the preheated 400º oven for four minutes. Stir the dish and then repeat the baking for another four minutes. This should help get the ingredients slightly crusty
- Remove the pan from the oven and turn the heat down to 325º. Mince two cloves of garlic. Add the garlic and the can of tomato paste to the pan. Pour in the wine and about ¾ of the carton of beef broth. Stir the dish as you pour in the liquids, so as to disperse the tomato paste and garlic as evenly as possible. Make sure the liquid just covers the top of the meat. Place the dish on the top of the stove under a low heat and continue stirring until it starts to simmer. If you're lazy and have enough liquid in the pan, you can probably skip this step.
- Put the lid on the casserole pan and bake it in the oven for about three-and-half hours, checking from time to time to make sure nothing burns (If it does there's a remedy. See below). If you are not planning to serve the goat dish on the day you make it, it is best to try and ensure that a little extra liquid is left in the pan when you remove it from the oven. It will make reheating easier.
- While the dish is cooking, peel the small white onions and then sauté them in about two tablespoons of butter and an equal quantity of olive oil. When the onions begin to brown, pour in about 1/4 cup of the leftover beef broth and some red wine. Sprinkle in a bit of thyme, then add 5 or 6 parsley sprigs and half a bay leaf. Cover and simmer for a half an hour or until the liquid dissipates and the onions are cooked. If you can find it, remove the bay leaf. Put the dish aside until the meat is ready.
- Slice and dry the mushrooms. Sauté them in a three or four tbs of butter and a little olive oil. Stir until lightly brown. Put aside the mushrooms until the main dish is done.
- When the dish is cooked, take the pan out of the oven and skip what Julia says about pouring the sauce into a sieve over a saucepan and washing the meat . There's also no need to remove the fat from the sauce after it cools. With goat meat there should be no extra fat. Just add the onions and mushrooms to the dish. You're good to go.
- Spoon the casserole onto a serving platter. Decorate with sprigs of parsley and serve. The dish goes great with potatoes au-gratin and a nice salad.
- If you cooked the food ahead of time, on the day of the event take out a giant saucepan and pour some broth into the bottom. After the broth starts to boil, spoon in the dish a little bit a time. If you're worried you may have burned some of the meat, as I feared the first time, try mixing a little honey into the broth (not too much). This will dissipate any burned taste. When the dish is boiling hot, take it off the stove and spoon it into a casserole dish. Whether served fresh out of the oven or reheated, it is still great garnished with parsley and served with potato au gratin and salad.
Lee Feigon is a writer, filmmaker, and Professor of Modern Chinese and Tibetan history. He also runs Gedalias Goat Farm.