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Barbecued Goat, Anyone?

5 January 2009 1,409 views 6 Comments

centuryplant_agaveAdam lives in East Austin, a neighborhood that is predominately Mexican-American.

As he headed out to join me downtown on New Years Eve, he was held up by a pickup truck blocking his driveway. The truck belonged to a Spanish-speaking man named Cristino, who asked permission to cut some of the Agave plant on the side of the house to make Barbacoa de Chivo, or barbecued baby goat.

Cristino offered a plate of food in exchange for part of the plant and Adam agreed even though at the time, he had no idea what chivo was since he doesn’t speak much Spanish.

Barbacoa is a northern Mexican method of baking meat in a pit dug into the earth. A fire is built at the bottom with mesquite and coals. It’s key to take a dozen or so long pencas, or leaves of agave (aka maguey) and shove them into the earth around the coals.

firepitAs the agave becomes wilted from heat, the leaves are folded over in a basket weave over the coals. A second ring of leaves are then added behind the first. These will wilt and fold over also, but after the meat is slipped in underneath them to cook.

The meat is seasoned (I think) with salt, onion, garlic, cloves, epazote. Once the leaves have covered the meat once more, earth is heaped on top to seal in the heat. Protected in the nest of agave leaves, the meat can steam for 8-12 hours before being dug from the pit.

Cristino and his family made barbacoa from two baby goats that were purchased from a local farmer. They are from a town around Monterrey in Mexico and it is common for goats to be eaten there. In fact, I read recently that goat is the #1 most commonly consumed animal protein on earth.

goatAdam and I stopped by Cristino’s to pick up his plate of goat late in the afternoon on January 1. They handed him a heaping plate of meat and showed us the pit and explained the BBQ process. Next to the pit are prickly pear cactus which is often used for salad once the prickly parts are shaved off with a knife.

On our way out, they generously went into the kitchen and made another heaping plate for me..each plate had enough meat on it to serve four healthy adults so this was a surprise. They also handed us a container of their homemade salsa with lots of cilantro and chilies.

We sampled the goat at home and I must admit, I had a tough time stomaching it. Maybe it was the fact that I was full, maybe it was knowing this was a baby goat I was eating, I’m really not sure. All I know is that Adam has been eating lots and lots of goat meat in the early days of 2009.

One of his favorite creations was putting the barbacoa, queso fresco, red onion, and Cristino’s salsa into a soft tortilla for a quick lunch. It sounds good to me but I’d rather eat that with lamb or chicken myself…bah!

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  • Marcos

    I haven’t found decent barbacoa in Austin. I know where to get the best one in Monterrey on Sundays. Whenever I’m over there I usually pick up some of my little cousins, buy a kilo, and bring it for breakfast to my grandmother’s place. Delicious.

  • Marcos

    This one’s beef. Most barbacoa is beef I’d say.

  • Anonymous

    I grew up in south Texas (aka northern Mexico), and I never could get used to the taste of barbacoa. I have a fairly adventurous palate, but I found it to have a funky taste and smell. Good for you for trying something new; but I don’t blame you one bit for opting for some chicken instead!

    Double Tonic

  • Ben

    Dude! Coopers BBQ in Llano serves gabrito (non-baby goat bbq), although they dip it in that salt bath stuff they use so I don’t know if that masks the flavor. I always found it to be a little gamier than beef but not wholly unpleasant. If you want to try again, I would definitely suggest going there.

  • Jodi

    Ben — I hate to sadden you but my guess would be that Cooper’s serves cabrito and the ito signifies it’s a lil baby.

  • ocdme

    I’m most interested in the bonus salsa that you were given–as you know, chips and dip (of any kind) is my meal of choice!!