Throughout history, great men have pushed themselves beyond the limits of society, sanity, safety, and sobriety in the name of exploration. Shackleton trod the Antarctic. Hillary summited Everest (although not without a heaping helping of Norgay to get him there, but still). Armstrong stepped on the moon. And if you ever found yourself in a position to ask any of them “Why?” I assure you, to a man, you’d get the same answer:
Because it was there.
We, the good people here at Oh Dear God Why Tasting Laboratories and Institute For Things, don’t know what that has to do with anything but here is a goat head and we are going to eat it. Available for purchase at a cost of roughly 8 dollars or so from the Mediterranean Market off of Highland and Park, this tantalizing delight has daunted us from almost the inception of our collective project. So we recently concluded it was time to address the issue once and for all. Flummoxed, initially, by concerns over the preparation method, we consulted several sources and settled on the suggestion provided by our dear friend and previous co-conspirator in a series of ill-concieved ventures, the one and only Zachary Whitten:
And so that is what we intend to do. We have acquired several heads of garlic, a medium-to-large sized onion, a whole bunch of stolen rosemary (special thanks to the neighbor around the corner with the enormous rosemary bush that grows directly onto the sidewalk), a big ass orange, the remnants of a bottle of exceptionally nice red wine, and what the hell an apple thrown in for good measure. Here is our mise:
We feel pretty comfortable saying that no matter WHAT happens to this fucker, it’s going to come out tasting like SOMETHING. So. After some surgery and inspiration and magic, here’s what we’re putting in the oven at 350, to braise:
Here’s your basic ungulate cranium (notice the eyes are still watching you), more or less drowned in a bath of red wine, garlic, huge chunks of onion, generous helpings of rosemary and immense boulders of orange and apple. The BRAIN CAVITY of this particular animal was partially exposed so we leapt on the opportunity to jab a few cloves of garlic, a piece of onion, and a rosemary sprig in there. Did bits of brain get on our fingers? Perhaps. Did we audibly exclaim “oh eeegh aaaagh uuuuugh agh” when that happened? None of your business. Now into the oven it goes, to slow roast at around 350 for somewhere between 2 and 3 hours, is the plan anyway. We will be checking in with it as time goes on, perhaps adding more liquid or doing a basic braise type activity situation, and evaluating the progress as time goes on. As there is no clear road map for the progress of a whole roasted goat head (you know it strikes me as I type this that it might actually be a lamb head. can’t remember. let’s just press on regardless), we here at the Blah Blah Blah Whatever I Call This Thing Place are more or less playing it by ear. Wish us luck.
Progress report: this is what we’re dealing with after about a half hour of roasting, covered, in a dutch oven at 350. Eyes still intact, looking fairly cooked already but we’re not taking any chances here, if our tasting engineer is consuming goat brain it’s assuredly going to stay in the oven for a minimum of 2 hours, come hell or high goat head. May remove it and baste with juices at slightly more regular intervals. Plan to remove lid of dutch oven at the 1 hr mark to reduce liquid volume somewhat. Also to make sure that our tasting laboratory never smells like anything other than animal skull and oranges ever again.
Progress report 2: after a little over an hour of roasting, the bones are really starting to blanch and the meat’s looking pretty well cooked. Odds are this is going to be ready to go right at the 2 hour mark, maybe sooner, but we’ll err on the side of OVERcooking it, since we’re talking about tongue and brains and stuff here. Regrettably, the eyeballs seemed to have burst to some degree, but we anticipated that contingency and are prepared to roll with it, consuming whatever eyeball fragments remain and narrowing our focus to the cheek and tongue and brain. We still possess a high degree of confidence about the outcome of this experiment.
OK. So here’s what you end up with when you put a goat head in an iron pot with garlic, rosemary, onion, apples and oranges and bake the fucker for two hours at 350 degrees. Reminds me of a certain album cover…
Now, the idea is to let it cool for a minute, and then start pulling it apart and separating out the edible chunks from the basic viscera and bone. As much fun as it would be to try and just straight up eat it like a popsicle, there are teeth and other sharp hard parts here so basic safety concerns are worth obeying. Nonetheless, we feel compelled to give you a few glimpses into what the process of dismantling this thing is like, so here is a brief photo essay entitled “the night we pulled apart a fucking goat head.”
Oops. Jaw came off.
The eyes were a bitch. I pulled out its eyes. I PULLED OUT ITS FUCKING EYES
Something something get cheeky with me something something something turn the other cheek something something.
How to get to the brains, then. Well, tools of course. You take your scratch awl and your hammer and you just beat away at the top of it until you get a sizable enough hole to scoop out the brains with a fork.
Which is precisely what I did.
Just another Friday night around the ODGWL. So, this is the total yield of meat (divided by the other half I brought in for my coworkers to sample) you get from the skull of a goat:
That is, going clockwise from the front, some brain, a cheek, a few slices of tongue, and last but not least, an eyeball. Also, that’s not blood you see coating the plate, but rather a reduction sauce made from the red wine it was prepared in, along with the head juices. Mmm… head juices. We’re expecting wild variance in terms of taste, texture, edibility, and general insanity but really, we’ve put in close to 4 hours preparing, dismantling, and disseminating this shit so why beat around the bush any further? Let’s have at it. First up: brain.
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. HRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. That is… some brain. Is what that is. Right there. It’s really… kind of like a paste, or pate or something. REALLY… uhhh… creamy. And… oof. God, it’s REALLY rich. The flavor is just SUPER concentrated and pretty salty and savory and oh my god I can still taste it. It kind of like coats the inside of your mouth and explodes as soon as you get it off the fork. Texturally speaking, it’s kind of somewhere between some sort of pate, like a foie gras type thing, and really mushed up tuna fish, like with little bits of… threaded musculature type stuff in it. I don’t know, give me a break, it’s hard as shit to describe what it’s like to eat fucking brains. Maybe we’ll have better luck with the cheek:
Wow! Okay, upon initial impact, there’s definitely some greasy gaminess to the cheek that MIGHT throw a less intrepid adventurer off course, but if you persist, the cheek actually has a wonderful tenderness and texture and really rich flavor to it that’s not unlike, say, a pork shoulder or something along those lines. That is actually genuinely good and I would eat it in a sandwich no questions asked. Okay maybe I’d ask some questions but I’d still eat it regardless. Moving on: tongue.
The taste is really not bad, it’s pretty rich and flavorful, very meaty and gamey and all of that, what throws me (and this is just a personal weakness) is the texture of the freaking thing. It’s kind of like sausage, in that when you first bite into it, there’s strong resistance and it’s really really chewy, but whereas sausage kind of gives after a couple of bites, the tongue just hangs on long and strong and down to get the friction on, which it definitely does, for several minutes before it can be swallowed. I’ve actually eaten tongue before, but sort of chopped up in a torta, and it definitely was not as fresh and freaky friday as this stuff was.
I want to talk about this tongue forever. I want to talk about the tongue all night. And the reason I want to talk about the tongue for so long is that when I stop talking about the tongue that means that it’s time to eat the eyeball. And I don’t want to eat the eyeball. I’m scared to eat the eyeball. But I’m going to. I’m going to eat the eyeball. I’m going to eat the eyeball right fucking now.
NOPE. That is not EVEN happening. That was… good god. The texture just goes from spongy mush to crispy to stringy and back, all within the same fucking BITE. Flavor-wise, it’s salty and gamey and meaty and whatever else just like the rest of the head is, there really isn’t an enormous variation in that regard between the various parts, it all just sort of tastes like goat, but… ugh. Ugh oh ick ack. It just was SO inedibly spongy and chewy and rubbery and oh god ugh agh. Granted, I’m no butcher and the parts that were causing me problems may have been all the viscera behind the eye that perhaps should have been trimmed off before serving but regardless. That was just epically awful and inedible. Attempt to consume at your own risk.
Does that look appetizing to you? (Thanks to Holly for the photo bomb)
We roasted, butchered, and consumed an entire goat head (or as much of it as we could manage) today, for the cause of science. A few final questions, though: Do we feel as if we have accomplished something? Perhaps. Are we grateful that we didn’t disgorge the contents of our stomach in the process of doing so? Extremely. And lastly… what have we learned as a result of all this? In short:
Brains are gross
Cheek is okay
Tongue is fine
Eyeballs… don’t eat em.
EDUTAINMENT. Until next time, remember – whatever doesn’t kill you just makes you want to throw up.