BiteClub, Recipes, Techniques

A Rainy-Day Braise: Ancho Chilis, Zinfandel, and Beets

I think this is a killer one-pot dish for a dank, inclement night although, in point of fact, I'm cheating, because neither beets, nor my protein of choice - young goat shanks, from the Owen Family Farm up in Hopland - are technically in season right now. But the mild heat and smoky undertone from the chilies, together with the spicy-sweet peppery jam of the wine, seemed a natural bedfellow for dense, rich, and slightly gamy flavors...

Goat shanks braised with Zinfandel, Ancho Chilis, and BeetsI think this is a killer one-pot dish for a dank, inclement night although, in point of fact, I’m cheating, because neither beets, nor my protein of choice – young goat shanks, from the Owen Family Farm up in Hopland – are technically in season right now. But the mild heat and smoky undertone from the chilies, together with the spicy-sweet peppery jam of the wine, seemed a natural bedfellow for theĀ  dense, rich, and slightly gamy flavors of the goat (I find it similar to mild, young lamb), and patiently stewed comfort foods always have a seat at the proximal winter table (e.g., check out the Gospel of Braising posted here).
You’d be right to question the beets: Typically a late-summer/early-fall crop and not, insofar as I can tell, a classic pairing for goat shanks. (Then again, I thumbed through at least a dozen classic cookbooks without securing a single recipe for goat, so maybe beets would be a classic match, if only more people bothered to eat goat?) But our local natural foods store had several kinds of fresh, organic beetroots in stock (the classic Bull’s Blood, Golden, and – although they claimed Chioggia – what looked to be Candy Cane to me), with smooth skin, skinny little rat’s tails, and excitable, bright green leafy afros, all of which signify a good beet, and got me thinking: With their mysterious amalgamation of sweetness and earth, beets have always made for an irreproachable date with goat’s milk cheeses, and the uniquely goat-y flavor of goat’s milk very much reflects the flavor profile of its parents, so why not put beets and goat in a single pot? In my experience, “why not” precedes unmitigated disaster at least as often as it does revelatory success, but, like a partially broken clock awaiting the sweep of its working hand, sometimes things just line up right.
As far as the rest of it goes, it’s all pretty basic, and based on the same essential techniques I always use when braising (e.g., the post above, or here); the only curve ball, aside from the beets, is the ancho chili, which I love to use for the mild heat, rich color, and sweet-smoky undertones which they add when stewed. Unless you count the goat itself, which you probably should, and which I highly recommend if you have a goat rancher in the ‘hood, but I think this dish would be just as successful – different, and perhaps less interesting, but successful – with beef or lamb. Recipe and technique to follow in tomorrow’s post.

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