I have a strong goat history.
As a child I had a pet goat named, of course, Billy.
Billy hanged himself.
He was a young, athletic billy goat, and kept getting in trouble so we tethered him. He catapulted himself over a nearby fence and came halfway down the other side where he met his fate.
Years later my dad’s best friend Woody bought a slaughter house and started raising goats. Every August we’d slaughter a couple young cabritos and have a big party where I’d fire up the smoker and barbecue the kids.
During training to be a chef under an old Greek restaurateur in Birmingham, I developed a good technique with the goat:
Soak the goat in a brine of salt and sugar water for a day in a 30 gallon plastic barrel. In our case, one that’d been used to transport Kalamata olives from Greece to USA.
Then you take a pen knife and cut dozens of tiny slits all over the goat, placing a half a clove of garlic in each slit. Rub the goat with olive oil flavored with oregano, sea salt and lemon juice
Build a fire with oak, cherry, hickory and pecan and slow smoke the goats for about 10 hours or so.
You’ll eat real good if you follow that simple technique.
A couple years ago I found out about the International Goat Cook Off out in Brady Texas, and recently made my second pilgrimage out to McCulloch County for the party.
I barely make my way into Richards park where there are 200 competitors with big smokers rolling fire when I spy a sign saying “stray beers accepted here”. I have a big cooler filled with Lone Star, Modelo Especial and Pabst Blue Ribbon, and nobody to help me drink them, so of course I make fast friends with the whole camp.
Jade Hambright is the pit boss of Hambright Original, and he’s just kind of sitting back watching the shenanigans of a bunch of young boys throwing washers and drinking cold beer. A girl in a pair of cowboy boots, a grass skirt and wearing a tiara is also part of their party. Kat’s bragging about how great her Black eye peas are so I take her up on the challenge.
Cooked down to a stew like consistency with lots of pork and plenty salt. They eat fine. Noticing I’m out of peas, Jade asks “you need some meat?” I nearly tear up when he presents me with a giant hunk of well-cooked goat with plenty bones for gnawing. It is delicious.
After some steady chowing, I begin to make my exit. The young boys take a break from throwing washers “you better come back before you head back to Austin. You don’t want us to have to come find you now” I take their warning to heart and make a mental note of the campsite’s location so I can return later in the day.
Walking deeper into the shade of the park I note a man with a big wooden paddle stirring something or other in a giant cast iron get-up suspended over a hardwood fire. I walk up to get a picture and just about freak out; this fiend is frying fresh pork skins-chicharrones!
He notes my extreme excitement and introduces himself. Chris is a Brad,y Texas native who’s been competing in the goat cook-off for the past six years. This time he wasn’t happy with his goat when he finished, so he decided to not turn it in to the judges. Instead he’s turned his energies to whomping up a batch of chicharron tacos on corn tortillas with homemade red salsa.
They are dynamite.
The salty porky hide is crunchy and has a good deep flavor of hog. The salsa is of a medium heat with a nice undercurrent of garlic. Corn tortillas are commercial but really come to life when he gives them a few seconds on the hot fire. We all stand around for a few minutes soaking in some shade, drinking Modelo Especial and loudly crunching our fried-out, pork fat tacos.
The thing about the folks at the goat cook off you really take away is their hospitality. Everyone is so warm and genuine, it makes the big city artifice of Austin just melt away.
I have this in mind as I approach my third camp: Waco Boys Cooking Team. A dozen or so men wearing matching orange shirts are gathered around a pro smoking rig. A buffet of smoked meats, ripe tomatoes and chips and salsa is set up to feed the boys who want to take a break from the beer drinking. One cowboy spots me dragging my cooler; “you hungry?”, I nod and a minute or so later I’ve been adopted by another big, friendly group of cooks.
Kyle Walton is the pitboss and he’s been competing and heading up the team for right at 4 years now. He’s already turned in his goat, but I feast nonetheless on smoked sausage, chips and salsa, brisket and a delicious smoked hamburger topped with salsa, mayo and a good red tomato.
One of the team members is a corporate jet pilot. We stand around talking about our favorite US cities like Tuscaloosa, Lexington, Kentucky and Birmingham, Alabama. Regional soft drinks are not left out of the mix, and he breaks down the hierarchy of the Big Red soft drink family, leaving few details out of the dissertation.
A lot of Hell raising commences as the different winners are announced. One, bordering-on-elderly lady chirps up with a “don’t let these ragged ol clothes fool you boys, mama’s a high stepper”.
The Waco Boys love this gal and we all commence to hooting and hollerin now that we know we got ourselves a live one.
A trio of pretty, goat-party beauty queens present the trophies to the various winners [I’ve appended a list at the bottom of this article].
Unfortunately neither Hambright Original nor Waco Boys Cooking Team finish in the money. It’s no matter; at the end of the day, as all the ol boys in each camp are having the time of their lives drinking beer, swapping lies and eating like kings on a glorious day deep in the heart of Texas.
101 Park Lane Road
Brady, TX 76825
Here are the winners of the 37th Annual International Goat Cook Off
1. Los Cuatro Locos
2. Goat Head and Get Usum
3. McCraine Wrecker Service
4. Barely Legal
5. Checkered Flag Racing
6. Las Familias
7. Cook n Company
8. Under Control
9. Ross Farms