Warm Up with Two Takes on Cold Weather Classics

Every Mainer has his or her own experience of winter.

Some people embark on seasonal adventure on the ski slopes or bundle up in a shack on the river to ice fish, some take pleasure in ice skating or sledding, many spend as much time indoors as possible, and some people even escape to warmer climes. Lacking the budget to do the latter, I seek my refuge in the kitchen—baking and roasting and stewing things to nourish my family, but also my spirit.

I was born in Maine, and I’ve lived here all my life, but winter and I are not exactly on what you’d call speaking terms. Still, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and as much as I loathe the snow when it’s time to shovel our driveway, let alone after it’s turned gray at the edges from the sand and road salt, there’s a magic in the falling flakes and in waking to a world covered in a heavy blanket of pure white that calls back to my childhood, when a forecast of snow meant the promise of staying home from school on a weekday and bundling up to play outside. As an adult, I begin to understand why my late father would often comment that ‘snow’ is a four letter word.

Winter in Maine is long and cold, even at its mildest, and at times it can seem as if you’ll never remember what ‘warm’ feels like again. On those days, it takes a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs meal to thaw you from the inside out. We all have our own go-to comfort foods to shake the ache and chill from our bones, but by the time the January thaw has come and gone and we’re dreading the roar of the lion of March, it can all get a little… tired. If you’re climbing the walls and dreading one more chili, beef stew, chicken pot pie or macaroni and cheese, I highly recommend that you find your way to a butcher shop or indoor farmer’s market and buy something out of the ordinary. That’s how we ended up experimenting with goat.

The first time we tried goat, we were still living in Bangor, and, seeking to break up the monotony of our menu, we took a day trip to Portland to expand our culinary horizon a bit. We ended up finding the indoor farmer’s market, which at the time was being held in the hall of the Irish Heritage Center. We spent a great deal of time wandering from vendor to vendor, sampling wares and purchasing small items, in search of something we couldn’t quite put our fingers on. The luxury and novelty of fresh, locally-grown salad greens before the spring thaw was heady, but ultimately it was the meat that caught our attention. This market had a variety that, if it was available in our area at the time, we hadn’t found it yet. I’d only had rabbit perhaps one other time at a friend’s farm, and neither of us had ever tried goat, so we allowed ourselves to be seduced by these exotic-sounding proteins.

Then we got our purchases home, and I realized that not only had I never eaten goat before, I’d certainly never cooked it. The farmer we’d purchased the goat from had suggested curry, and since we both enjoy curry containing other meats, such as chicken and lamb, it did seem like the safest bet. But safe doesn’t mean boring, when it comes to curry. The only limitations are your own imagination, and your tolerance for capsaicin. Rabbit, it turns out, takes much longer to roast than I had anticipated, so we ended up going with a backup plan that night (which might actually have been leftover goat curry) and using the rabbit the next day for a delicious stew, served over biscuits; ultimately it was well worth the wait. I’ve rarely been disappointed by stepping outside of our ordinary meal repertoire to keep our meals interesting, and to keep myself excited about preparing them throughout the dreary winter months.


Roasted Rabbit Stew

Ingredients:

  • 1 roasted rabbit (or most of one) and pan juices
  • potatoes and carrots
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4-6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups red wine

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, cook roasted rabbit in chicken stock until falling off the bone.
  2. Remove from stock, strain and pick carcass, adding all meat back in. Follow with crushed tomatoes and red wine.
  3. In a skillet, render chopped bacon until it begins to become crispy. Add onion and garlic and soften, then add to the stew pot.
  4. Reduce until thick and rich; add potatoes and carrots.
  5. Serve over biscuits—and enjoy!

Curried Goat

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb goat shoulder roast, bone-in
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 13.5 oz cans coconut milk
  • 1/2 cups curry powder
  • 1 Fresno chile, minced (with seeds)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-5 carrots, sliced
  • 1 cups frozen peas
  • 4 cups beef stock/broth

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot, place goat, onion, garlic and broth.
  2. Bring to a boil, add tomatoes, coconut milk, curry powder and chiles and reduce to a simmer.
  3. When goat is tender and falling off the bone, remove from broth and allow to cool enough to pick meat from the bone and return it to the pot.
  4. At this time, add potatoes and carrots; when these are softened, add frozen peas.
  5. When the peas are thawed and warmed through, serve on top of cooked jasmine rice—and enjoy!