Monday, April 5, 2010

Braised Goat Shanks

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted out of the blue by a local family farm. They had seen some of my agriculture photos and wanted to know if I would like to come out and take pictures at their farm.

Braised Goat Shank

So I drove out to Chaffin Family Orchards near Oroville and met Chris Kerston, a sort of farming/marketing jack of all trades for the farm. Not only does he work with the orchards and the livestock (chickens, goats, cows), but he also handles marketing for the farm as well as the farm's online Twitter presence.

He took me on a tour of the Chaffin family operation, which includes olives, peaches, oranges, grapefruit, and even a few avocados, as well as grass fed beef and goats. Their property includes a corner of Table Mountain as well, and I was able to go up and look at the incredible view.

So what does any of this have to do with incredibly delicious braised goat shanks pictured above? Absolutely nothing. It was just an interesting experience, nothing more.

Actually, at the end of my tour of the farm, Chris gave me a pair of frozen goat shanks to take home, and that's where the dish above came from. And let me tell you, they were amazingly delicious. Goat isn't all that different from beef in flavor and texture; it isn't weird or gamy, so don't hesitate to try it.

If you can't make it out to the farm, Chaffin Family Orchards has a booth every Saturday at the Chico Downtown Farmer's Market. Go. Buy some goat shanks. You won't regret it.

The Food (Jhan)

Goat meat, wow! I guess Tony was a little leery about bringing home goat meat. I understand. After all, I've only been eating red meat meat again for about a year or so, but I have students who eat goat all the time so why not? I was actually eager to try it. (It was so nice of the folks at Chaffin Family Orchards to send home some goodies for us!)

In my mind I figured that goat must be like lamb but when I went on the internet to look for recipes and information I learned a lot. This was a great meal. The goat meat was fairly lean compared to beef but very similar in texture and taste. I highly recommend trying goat if you have the opportunity.

I decided that since we had shanks the best way to cook them would be in the slow cooker. Since I kept reading that the taste was similar to beef I came up with a recipe I thought would not only bring out the flavor of the meat but that would ensure that the goat shanks were very tender. I've been very busy lately so I also wanted to make a one pot meal and cut down on the clean up (which was one reason for the carrots that Tony dislikes - although he told me later that they tasted great with the sauce).

Slow cooked Goat shank

Use a Medium sized slow cooker

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease
  • 2 goat shanks
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 14.4 oz can tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 11/4 cups chicken stock ½ cup chopped carrot
  • 1 ½ large or 2 medium yellow onions cut into eighths
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 8 oz. whole baby carrots
  • 4 small – medium potatoes peeled and cut into chunks

  1. Heat bacon grease and 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet
  2. Dry goat shanks and season well with salt and pepper
  3. Brown shanks well on all sides – 5-7 minutes (med high heat), remove from skillet to slow cooker
  4. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil to skillet; heat to medium
  5. Add onions, carrots, and garlic to skillet; sauté until onions are tender and slightly browned
  6. Transfer veggies to slow cooker; arrange shanks on top of veggies
  7. Add wine and chicken stock to skillet; bring to a boil scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan
  8. Add canned tomatoes, rosemary and oregano; simmer for 3-5 minutes
  9. Pour over shanks and veggies in slow cooker
  10. Set slow cooker to Low, time for 3 hours
  11. After 3 hours open cooker and add carrots and potatoes (on top of goat shanks)
  12. Close cooker and cook on Low for 4 hours or until potatoes and carrots are very tender and meat is falling off the bone
  13. Open the cooker and remove the potatoes and baby carrots, serve along side meat as is or mash potatoes as a bed for the meat.
  14. Serve that meat au jus or puree the sauce and make a rue to thicken into very tasty gravy.
  15. Sprinkle dish with chopped rosemary for a nice extra pop! of flavor

Braised Goat Shank

The Plating

I've been trending away from complex setups with silverware, glasses, and other props, mostly because I don't see much of that in most of the food photography that I like. The images I like are all about the food and the presentation - nothing else. So I opted for only a plate and a place mat for this shoot. But I did want to try two different presentations for the dish (we had two shanks after all, and why should mine be the only one that was stone cold by the time we got to eat it?).

The first plating (above) was simply the shank on a plate with some sauce, a few sautéed mushrooms, and a sprig of rosemary for color. Simple, strong and effective.

But I've been itching to use a fancy plate I have and the shank was the perfect size for it, so I did a second presentation (below). I propped the shank on a pile of potatoes, sprinkled some chopped rosemary on it, and dressed the plate with some asparagus (which I love) and cooked carrots (which I despise) for color.

Personally, I like the simpler presentation above better, but they both work.

Braised Goat Shank

Lighting and Photography

Braised Goat Shank LightingThis was one shoot that I knew how I wanted to light in advance and everything came out almost exactly the way I imagined. Finally! However, it's way too soon to even think that I might be getting some idea of what I'm doing. Personally, I think I just got lucky.

The lighting was extremely simple: Key light placed to the right and bounced off a sheet, and fill light placed to the rear through a reflector. I positioned the key light very low, about ten inches above the table top, in order to create longer shadows and bring out the texture in the food. I added a piece of white foam core to the left of the dish (not pictured) to fill in the shadows.

I also varied the strength of the fill light from 1/8th to equal to the power of the key light to increase or decrease the reflections on the dish. Compare the image above with the one below. In the image below, I increased the strength of the fill light to the same power as the key light. Given the angle, the rear fill light actually appears to be the predominant light.

Braised Goat Shank

Lessons Learned

I'm not sure that I actually learned anything new this time around other than if I can remember and do everything that I've learned so far, I can actually get good results that are actually what I envisioned. And that's a pretty big lesson.



  2. This recipe sounds amazing... 2 goat shanks in slow cooker right now. We were out of carrots and the ground was too frozen to dig any up that remain in the garden :) so I threw in the veggies I found in the fridge that needed using - a green pepper and a couple of leeks. And I had to make do with dried rosemary. This is the first thing I've cooked in a slow cooker and first time I've ever tried goat so it's an experiment on two fronts. Can't wait 'til it's done. Thanks for the great recipe (looks amazing in the photo!).

    - Susan

    1. Update: It was awesome! However, I found it the rosemary a bit strong so I would recommend using a teaspoon or less if using dried rosemary (I used about a tablespoon). The goat tasted a lot like beef (not lamb as some other people had told me) and wasn't at all "gamey". Thanks again for an awesome recipe. :)