Spring Ahead: Ideas for lamb and goat meat

Lamb kabobs

Lamb and goat meat aren’t as easy to find as beef and chicken or even bison, but they are worth seeking out from the growing number of local producers. There are more than 3,000 sheep farms and more than 1,500 goat farms in Minnesota now. Lamb loves flavors from around the Mediterranean, all the way from Morocco to Greece: fresh and preserved lemons, cinnamon, mint, garlic, cumin, coriander, yogurt, and dill. Use these in marinades, rubs, toppings, and sides and you almost can’t go wrong. 


Lamb, like beef and pork, has quick-cooking and slow-cooking cuts. Lamb chops cook just like pork chops and are great for grilling. All they need is two or three minutes per side over high heat. Rub a little oil and some seasonings on before cooking. For kebabs, use top round or leg of lamb, cut into two-inch pieces. (Try to buy it already cut, unless you like quality time with your knife.) Marinate the lamb first — yogurt and lemon is great — and then grill the meat for ten to fifteen minutes. 


Slower cooking cuts, like a shoulder or leg, whether bone-in or boneless, can be roasted or braised at 350 degrees F, for about 15 minutes a pound until the internal temperature is 145 to 160 degrees F (medium rare to medium well). Take the roast out of oven about 10 degrees early and let it rest for about twenty minutes before carving. Boost the flavor of a lamb roast by making slits in the flesh and inserting slivers of garlic then rubbing it with oil, salt, and pepper.


Make a lamb stew with your favorite combination of flavors by browning stew meat — just as you would with  a beef stew — and then cooking it, covered, with plenty of  vegetables and aromatics in a little broth at 325 degrees F  for about an hour and a half.  


We tend to think of East African or Jamaican cuisine when we think of goat, and then we might remember that, yes, it’s popular in Mexico and India and parts of Italy and, as it turns out,  goat is the most widely eaten meat around the world. It’s still not mainstream here in Minnesota, but it is getting easier to find, and more producers are showing up at farmers markets. 


Most animals have some quick-cooking cuts and some slow-cooking cuts, but pretty much all goat meat is stew meat. So whether you’ve found bone-in or cubed meat, the easiest way to approach it is the same: marinate it in something flavorful, at least two hours, preferably overnight, and then cook it in the marinating liquid, covered, at 350 degrees F for two to three hours.  


You might go with a marinade of oil, lemon juice, garlic, and plenty of fresh herbs such as rosemary, oregano, and thyme. Or you could go with Jamaican flavors:  coconut milk, lots of fresh hot peppers, and Jamaican curry powder. If you’ve got a whole leg of goat, you can braise it very, very slowly. After searing it on the stovetop and placing it in a Dutch oven with lots of flavorful vegetables and a little liquid — just like a pot roast — cook it at 300 degrees F for six or more hours, until it is incredibly tender.  


Lamb Kebabs from Kristin Tombers

Clancey’s Meats and Fish would be a classic neighborhood butcher shop if it weren’t so well-known, respected, and loved that customers from around the Twin Cities seek it out. Owner Kristin Tombers is dedicated to finding the best and most sustainable sources of meat, fish, dairy, and more. What’s more, her savvy staff is positively passionate about meat and grilling. No matter what it is you want to grill, they’ve got tips for you—and if you don’t know yet just what it is you’re craving, they’ve got suggestions.  The amounts here are all approximate. Kristin likes to cook over a very high heat to get a good char;   if you do that, try putting meat and vegetables on separate skewers to better control of cooking times. 


1 onion, divided 

1 to 2 pounds cubed lamb meat, such as top round

1/4 cup olive oil 

1 to 2 lemons, sliced in half, plus more for kebabs

2 tablespoons dried oregano or 1/4 cup fresh

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

5 to 10 cloves of garlic (or more, to taste), grated,  minced, or pressed


Grate half the onion on a box grater to use in marinade, reserving  all liquid. Cut the other half intowedges and reserve to thread onto skewers. 


Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl, squeezing lemons well. Use your hands to blend everything together. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator one hour to overnight. 


Thread cubes of meat onto skewers (if you use wooden ones, soak them in water for about a half hour beforehand). Alternate with onion wedges and — if you’ve got some more lemons —s mall  lemon wedges. Push the pieces tightly together on the skewer. 


Light charcoal grill and wait for coals to ash over or heat gas grill on high for 10 minutes. Grill skewers, turning once, 10 to 15 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 135˚F. Remove from grill, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 10 minutes.

Goat Phô by Stewart Woodman

Stewart Woodman has a reputation in the Twin Cities not only for his cooking chops but also for caring about good food and good cooking — passionately and vocally. He takes his staff on tours of farms, meat-processing plants, and food distributors so that they, and he, can know the whole story of where their ingredients come from. His restaurant, Heidi’s Minneapolis — named for his wife and pastry chef, Heidi Woodman — was a landmark on the fine dining scene. Woodman’s goat phô brings together what are by now typically Minnesotan flavors: goat, a staple in the diet of the Somali community, and phô, the beloved Vietnamese soup. Use this rich broth as the base of a simple soup by adding (just before serving) shredded poached goat meat (see below), rice noodles, bean sprouts, basil, sliced chilies, and a squeeze of lime. 


1 onion, sliced 

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Canola oil to coat pan 

4 star anise 

2 cinnamon sticks 

2 lemongrass stalks, sliced 

1 4" piece of ginger, peeled, sliced

3 Fresno chilies, sliced in half 

2 quarts goat stock* 

1/2 cup mushroom soy sauce (or substitute regular soy sauce) 

1 bunch cilantro


Sauté onion and peppercorns over high heat in canola oil to achieve lots of caramelization. Add star anise, cinnamon, lemongrass, ginger, and chilies. Sauté for about 5 minutes until soft.


Add goat stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add soy sauce and cilantro. Steep for about 30 minutes.


Strain the phô and cool rapidly.


*To make goat stock, ask your farmers market vendor for goat bones. Roast them in a 450˚F oven about 1 hour. Remove to a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Then skim off the scum that floats to the top, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, a good long time, 3-plus hours. 


Or make broth using goat meat. Cover pieces of goat with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, about 2 hours.  Add water as needed.


This article is an excerpt from Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook: A Guide to Selecting and Preparing the Best Local Produce (Voyageur Press). You can find the book online, or shop locally by picking up a copy at Cooks of Crocus Hill.



Tricia Cornell is a Minneapolis writer who contributes to the food blog The Heavy Table. She the author of a number of books on local travel and food, including Eat More Vegetables: Making the Most of Your Seasonal Produce.