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Cabrito Confidential: How-To Roast a Goat

My friend Molly O’Neill staged a Longhouse Revival food event in Austin, Texas on Feb 6, 2013. In preparation, she called me and asked who I would recommend as a legendary pit master in Texas that could help with a grilling demo of the Northern Mexico specialty of cabrito, or fire-roasted kid goat. She was looking for someone that could cook with authority, but wasn’t a celebrity chef. Of course, I recommended my husband, Kiko.

Kiko grew up grilling and can read a fire like city folks read street signs. Having grown up on a cattle ranch in the Northern Mexico state of Tamaulipas, evening meals usually consisted of lighting a mesquite fire and grilling chickens, steaks, rabbits, or on special occasions, kid goats. My husband knows how to calculate the time it takes to turn a mesquite log into the perfect pile of embers and how many of those embers are needed to perfectly roast any type of meat. Impatient, hungry glances and muttered complaints drift around the table when Kiko grills. He takes his time; he is never rushed. However, those complaints are quickly stifled once the carving board is delivered from the fire to the kitchen. His roasted meats are always savory, succulent, and crisped with just the right amount of char.

In the U.S., we don’t have the goat culture that my husband grew up with in Northern Mexico. Nonetheless, goat meat is becoming increasing popular in the U.S. Changes in ethnic populations have created a demand for cabrito in the supermarket, with production more than doubling in the last 10 years. However, the majority of carnivores in the U.S. are unfamiliar with the flavor of goat, and fewer still are familiar with the way cabrito should be cooked.

I asked my husband and Cuco, my concuño (brother-in-law) who sells cabritos as a side job, how one should select and roast a goat. Both Kiko and Cuco agree that the Gold Standard of cabrito is a kid goat no more than three weeks old that has never left the corral and has never been fed anything but mother’s milk. The breed of goat is not important but the animal's age and milk diet are critical to good flavor.

 

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