A couple of years ago, I was picking up pomegranate syrup at Jerusalem Market on Plymouth Road when I noticed a sign above the halal meat counter that listed cuts of lamb and goat. I had eaten goat before, mostly in Mexico and at the former Bev’s Caribbean Kitchen, but had cooked it only once, when I encountered a few odd pieces at Detroit’s Eastern Market. Having always found it delicious, with a hint of the barnyard but tasting more of veal than lamb, I bought a leg. Soon I invited friends over to help sample subsequent experiments with other cuts. Then last year, with my husband poised at a milestone birthday and wanting to celebrate with a big bash, I toyed with the idea of roasting a whole goat. I began looking around to see what other places sold goat, who were their customers, and how those goats were cooked.
As it turns out, it’s not hard to procure a goat in Ann Arbor–Sparrow Meat Market in Kerrytown occasionally gets in a goat from a local farmer, and all the halal meat counters in town carry it. (Halal means the animals were slaughtered in accordance with Islamic dietary law.) Goats were first domesticated in the mountains of what is now Iran, spreading west to the Mediterranean, east to Pakistan and India, and eventually to parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
You can see that history replayed at local markets. Abu Samer, Jerusalem Market’s owner, says Greeks buy legs for Sunday dinner and whole baby goats for Easter. Indians and Pakistanis prefer boneless chunks, trimmed of all fat, for curries and stews. Arabs may roast a shoulder or leg with rice and vegetables, stew bony hunks, or saute the liver with onions or skewer and grill the kidneys.
At the corner of Stone School Road and Ellsworth, the well-stocked Mediterranean Market features an in-house bakery, Middle Eastern groceries, bargain produce, and a halal meat counter that carries marinated meats and poultry to supplement the usual offerings. Reflecting an Arab and Hispanic customer base, the offerings include chicken shawarma, lamb kebabs, and beef fajitas. Although I had to ask about goat, the butcher had four whole animals hanging in his cooler. I bought marinated goat chops, trimmed off the excess fat (goat may be even fattier than lamb), and grilled them along with some oversized pita from the store’s bakery for a fabulous dinner. With three or four days’ notice, Mediterranean Market can produce an entire meal of roasted goat, lamb, or chicken accompanied by rice and vegetables, fresh pita, meat pies, and Middle Eastern “pizzas.”
At Ypsilanti’s Dos Hermanos market, myriad products from Mexico, Central and South America, both ordinary and wonderfully strange, line the shelves. The freezers and fresh meat cases hold everything from bull testicles, fish, and chicharron (fried pork rind) to chicken feet, house-made chorizo, and beef, pork, and goat butchered Mexican style. (Reflecting local traditions, including a preference for unaged meat, Mexican butchers often slice meat thinly, resulting in cuts that might not be recognizable to an American consumer.) Unlike the halal counters, whose meat comes from Detroit’s Eastern Market, Dos Hermanos’s goat comes from Chicago.
Dos Hermanos is also, as far as I know, the only local store where you can sample goat. Every Saturday, the store features a miniature taqueria with barbocoa de chivo–slow-cooked goat, falling-off-the-bone tender–along with barbacoa de res (beef) and carnitas of pork, served in tacos and tortas, as well as consomme and tamales. (Fridays bring the same, without the goat, and on Sundays lamb replaces the goat.) For those wanting to try goat but unwilling to commit to cooking it themselves, Saturdays at Dos Hermanos provide the perfect opportunity.
So what did I settle on to serve at my husband’s birthday bash? Deciding that the logistics of setting up and manning rotisseries was too ambitious, I settled on roasting a slew of tandoori chicken and braising two goat legs. Maintaining an Indian theme, a few days before the party I pureed some spicy lime pickle from Golam Produce Markeet with a bit of water to form a paste, slathered the mixture on the well-trimmed legs, and let them set overnight. The next day I set each leg in a heavy casserole on top of four or five sliced onions, added a half cup or so of water and roasted them, covered, in a 275-degree oven for about five hours. I then refrigerated the legs in their pans. The day of the party, about five hours before serving time, I removed all the congealed fat from the onion mixture, let the meat set at room temperature an hour or two, and then put the covered pans back in the oven. After approximately two hours, I removed the covers so that the goat could brown. Finally, the meat waited on the counter while I quickly fired off the chicken in a very hot oven. I served the goat, which was falling off the bone, with the onions and its juices.
It was delicious and great fun, but milestone birthdays don’t roll around very often. By taking a seat at Dos Hermanos’s tiny counter and ordering a plate of tacos, I can enjoy a culinary adventure every Saturday.