Grilled Goat Chops with Garlic, Oregano and Lemon

Crusty with grilled bits of onion, garlic and lemon zest, these chops were my first experience with goat in Italy. They were small, maybe four bites each, crusty on the outside, but pink, succulent and delicious inside. They'd been grilled over a wood fire at one of those trattorie everyone in the neighborhood knows, but we outlanders have to be lucky enough to find on our own.

The Puglia region (the heel of the Italian boot), where I ate these chops, is one of the many places on the planet where goat and lamb are the meats of choice. The reason -- they thrive on anything, but especially on the sparse grasses and wild herbs you see everywhere in Puglia. 

Cook to Cook: Just as with lamb, the smaller the goat chops, the younger the animal and the more delicate the flavor. Buy where goat is prized, direct from farmers at farmer's markets, at halal markets, or from Mexican and Latin American butchers. 

  • 6 large garlic cloves 
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped 
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons good tasting extra virgin olive oil 
  • Shredded zest of 2 large lemons 
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (about 6 tablespoons) 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano 
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 8 to 9 1-inch thick small rib or loin goat chops (lamb could be used as well)

1. Allow 1-1/2 to 2 hours for marinating the meat. In a food processor or blender combine the garlic, onion, 1/2 cup olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, wine, oregano, salt, and pepper. Process to just short of a puree. You want some small bits of rind, onion, and garlic. Pour the marinade into a heavy plastic bag or bowl, toss with the chops and refrigerate 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

2. To cook, drain the chops but do not wipe off the marinade. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium high heat. Arrange the chops in the skillet so they barely touch. Use 2 pans if necessary. Brown quickly on both sides. Then turn down the heat to medium-low and cook another 2 minutes a side, or until the chops are barely firm when pressed with your finger. They should be blushed with pink inside. Serve the chops hot.

On the GrillBurn hardwood charcoal until grey ash forms. Make a two-zone fire with a heap of coals on one side of the grill for searing, and a thin layer of coals on the other for slow cooking. Sear the chops over the high heat, and then move them over the lower heat section to finish, cooking slowly. When you press them and they seem to be barely firm, they are done. 
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Serves 4 to 6
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