Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lamb chops, Cabrito, and Caprettu

Hippocrene Books has recently added a new cookbook to the family, Corsican Cuisine: Flavors from the Perfumed Isle. Arthur L. Meyer "brings the rich essence of Corsican foods to life" with "simple, rustic recipes" that will have you dreaming about a Mediterranean vacation. Art is here today to share one of his favorites:

            I love lamb chops. My mom made them regularly when I was growing up in New York City. There’s something about the crisp, golden fat that surrounds lamb rib chops when they have been broiled under a searing flame, and the rich taste subtly different from beef. Whenever life’s stresses require a comfort food, broiled lamb chops with sautéed spinach and mashed potatoes appear on my dinner menu. My mom always had a set of fixed side dishes with every entrée, and she always rolled her eyes when I would mix the spinach and potatoes together. I think the mélange tempered the metallic off-taste that spinach has on the adolescent palate.
           I’ve been living in central Texas for almost forty years now, and the best culinary surprise came the first time I was introduced to cabrito, which is baby goat. Here in Texas we like to cook outdoors over hardwood coals, especially oak, pecan and mesquite. I was invited to a barbecue just weeks after arriving in Austin, and the featured dish was roasted cabrito, turned slowly over pecan wood. The first whiff of smoke as I arrived at the ranch sent me into a lamb chop flashback. It smelled exactly like the smoke emanating from my mom’s oven broiler when she made lamb chops. I knew immediately that this was the beginning of a love affair with all that is goat meat. To this day, when visiting friends in south Texas near Mexico, they know to plan a trip to Nuevo Progresso for a visit to La Fogata, a small restaurant specializing in roasted whole baby goats. The kitchen is a twenty foot long trough filled with glowing coals, with about thirty goats splayed out on skewers, slowly turned by the grill man, in succession, as he walks the perimeter of the trough. The skin of the cabrito becomes just like the fat surrounding my beloved lamb chops, with a flavor almost identical to them.
            The mountainous terrain that is Corsica is ideal for raising goats and sheep, with little flat, spacious pasture land that is required for raising cattle. Corsicans divide their meat into two categories, based on whether domesticated or game. Interestingly, chickens, rabbits and ducks fall into the same category as goats, sheep and beef cattle. Corsicans love to grill meats outdoors over hardwood coals and the smell of baby goat (caprettu) slowly roasting over aromatic myrtle wood is remarkable (and remarkably similar to my Texas barbecue and Mom’s broiled lamb chops.) Following is a traditional Corsican recipe for Leg of Kid Goat Stuffed with Roast Pork Loin. While the instructions call for roasting in an oven, feel free to break out the grill and cook over coals, as I often do when having friends over for dinner on a cool, autumn Texas evening. Of course mashed potatoes accompany the roast (and note that spinach is the first ingredient of the stuffing!)

Leg of Kid Goat Stuffed with Roast Pork Loin
Jambe de Cabri au Farcie de Longe de Porc Séchée
Ghjamba di Caprettu incu Pienu di Lonzu

 Serves 8

Note: Boneless leg of lamb is readily available and can be substituted. Leg of lamb is usually larger than a shoulder or leg of goat, so be sure to increase the amount of stuffing and the cooking time if using it.

12 ounces baby spinach
1 leg of kid goat
6 ounces smoked pork loin, coarsely ground
6 ounces ground veal or beef
6 ounces pork liver or calf’s liver, minced
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil to rub roast
salt and freshly ground pepper


Advance Preparation: Blanch the spinach by plunging into a large pot of salted boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon to an ice water bath. Squeeze out all water from the spinach and finely chop.
Bone the leg of goat by starting at the thigh bone and working your way to the knee joint; remove the thigh bone and continue down, removing the shin and leg bone (or have your butcher bone the  leg).
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

1. Mix the pork loin with the ground veal and liver. Add the chopped spinach and egg. Add the salt and stir to make a uniform mixture.

2. Open the boned goat leg and fill the interior with the stuffing. Fold the meat over the stuffing to form a roll and then tie with kitchen twine.

3. Rub olive oil over the tied, stuffed leg and place in a large roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes, or until the stuffing inside registers 160 degrees F.

4. Allow meat to stand 10 minutes before carving into slices. Sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper before serving.

Arthur L. Meyer is a restaurant and bakery consultant who has been cooking professionally since 1963. He is the author of Corsican Cuisine and currently working on a Danish cookbook to be published by Hippocrene Books in Spring 2011. He resides in Austin, Texas.

No comments: