Cooking A Kid
It’s a primal thing, my aversion to eating baby animals, and hard to overcome. But in the supermarket the other day we happened upon a mysterious package of meat marked as “demi chevreau” or half a kid. Although I’ve eaten and enjoyed goat, I’d never even dreamed of cooking a kid, let alone one so tiny. This half-kid weighed only 2.2 kilos, about 5 pounds, so you can just imagine how small the whole animal must have been. There was no question in my mind, I had to take that peculiarly pale meat home with me. Why then, three days later, was I still having such a hard time unwrapping the package? But then last night we had company for dinner and I finally had to face the music, an imaginary bleating that just wouldn’t go away. I am such a wuss.
Ok, deep breath, here it is. I sorted it all out slowly, taking inventory. A nice piece of leg, meaty. A rack of ribs, spindly. A shoulder, gristly. Some little ankles, or maybe elbows, bony. And the abats, innards, a liver, one kidney, and the ris, the thymus gland, scary.
I was determined that none of it should go to waste, and also, because there was so little actual meat, I wanted to cook it all for a single meal, but, with a typical excess of zeal, with a different preparation for each part.
I started by making a bit of stock with the tiny ankles and elbows and bony miscellany. The garlic clove is there just to show you how miniscule that little ankle is. And I started with the stock because I had no idea what to do next, especially with the abats, so it was a kind of stock-based avoidance therapy. While the stock simmered I tossed the abats to soak in milk because, well, isn’t that what you are supposed to do with them? The milk made the ris, which already had a grotesquely moussy texture, even less appealing, not to mention that the milk itself turned a ghastly pink. I was pretty sure that no one would eat these parts unadorned. I knew I wouldn’t. I decided to hide the evidence.
There, doesn’t that look better? Do you suspect this dish of containing any kidney or thymus gland? Ah, but they were in there, after a quick sizzle in beurre noisette, a deglaze with Port, and a whirl around the food processor with some good salted butter. All in all it only made a few toast slathers per person, and that was just the right amount. It was actually quite good, especially after I strained out the dubiously grainy bits.
The shoulder was trickier. I simmered it in my stock with a few cèpes, white vermouth, some garlic, and a bay leaf until it was tender, then shredded all the meat off the bones. And when I say “all the meat” I mean something like “is that all the meat there is?” I returned the handful of meat shreds to the strained stock, added enough crème fraîche to make a creamy sauce, tossed in some tiny dices of potato, and set it all to simmering again until everything was silky and melting. This turned out to be a truly delicious preparation. The shoulder bones went back into the stock pot and I made a second stock, to use later for cooking some rice.
Next up, riblets. Doesn’t this look like rack of lamb? The only difference is that the tiny nugget of meat, perched here on a little crust of bread, was less than a bite, smaller than a penny, and the rib bones themselves were so small they bent to the lightest touch. However, since for me the whole point of this part of the meal was the potential for unmitigated bone-gnawing, it was entirely enough.
I rubbed the ribs with salt and pepper and ras el hanout, brushed them with olive oil, and roasted them in a really hot oven for a few minutes untiil they were nearly golden, then tossed a light coating of bread crumbs onto the whole rack and browned it under the grill. Our guest and I were gnawing and purring and possibly growling a little over this course, while Shel was decorously eating the mini meat bites before tossing us his bones.
The last course, the roasted leg, was the easiest and most normal part of the dinner. Rubbed with salt and pepper, herbes de Provence, and then coated with a mix of grainy mustard à l’ancienne, honey, and breadcrumbs, it was tender and sweet. This was the only part of the kid that we didn’t finish, and there’s enough for one more little something tomorrow. And the well-gnawed rib bones are in the freezer, waiting to be joined by the leg bones, for yet a third stock.
All in all, every part was good, each was different. I got to spend a fun day in the kitchen overcoming squeamishness, we licked our fingers a lot and spilled wine on the tablecloth. It was primal, but in a good way. And I still have those bones, begging to be used yet again.