The thing about chanfana de cabrito is that you either love it or hate it. It isn’t so much the actual flavors or the style in which it is prepared that people object to but rather the main ingredient: goat. The dish can be prepared with lamb, venison or even chicken and turkey since the base is a vinha d’alhos. Vinha d’alhos is a classic marinade in Portuguese cuisine which as a base consists of garlic and wine. While these protein replacements are in and of themselves delicious alternatives the preparation pairs so well with goat that it seems unnatural not to use it. There are many opinions on the provenance of the dish, but a few things are established. First, the word chanfana is an adulteration of the Latin word sanfona (meaning symphony). The Spanish used the term to describe a stew made with onions and other condiments. The Portuguese further changed the word to chanfana. Secondly, the dish originated in 19th century Portugal in the town of Semide during the French invasion of Portugal. This is where the historical records diverge. One story claims that the nuns of the Semide Monastery sought to deprive the French army of food and slaughtered their herd of goats. They cooked the goat with red wine because the French poisoned their water source. Another version claims that the French took the monastery’s animals for supplies leaving the older goats behind since they were tough when cooked. Having nothing else to eat the nuns cooked the goats in wine to tenderize the meat. However, historical records show that the word chanfana was in the vernacular as far back as the 17th century when Miguel de Cervantes, Bocage, Nicolau Tolentino, Miguel Torga and others described the preparation as a popular way that the poor cooked older animals and tough meat scraps, amongst them female goats that stopped producing milk. Regardless of the exact origin of the dish it is a great way to cook goat since the marinade and cooking technique mask the strong flavor of the meat and tenderizes it in the process. Many variations of the recipe exist, and I welcome you to alter my recipe but recommend that you observe two things: (1) marinating the meat overnight is essential especially if you are using meat from an older goat. (2) baking the dish in a clay casserole or Dutch oven really deepens the flavor and gently forms a rich coating on the meat reminiscent of a cassoulet. You may of course replace the goat and the next best way to make it is with lamb although I have had success with turkey and once ate a venison version which was simply divine.
- 2-3 lbs. bone in goat cut into large chunks
- 2 garlic cloves grated
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons of mass de pimentao
- 4 cloves
- 1 tablespoon of lard
- 1 tablespoon of Portuguese Olive Oil
- 1 Onion halved and cut into thin slices
- 1 bottle of Portuguese wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lather the goat chunks with the olive oil and lard. Mix the garlic, bay leaves, paprika, pimentao, cloves salt and pepper with half the wine. Layer the bottom of a clay (pyrex is fine) casserole or Dutch oven with the onions and place the goat on top. Pour the wine mixture over the meat and refrigerate overnight. The next day place the casserole or Dutch oven into a pre-heated 350 degree oven and cook for 3 hours or until you see that the meat falls off the bones. Do not mix or move the meat while it is cooking but do add more wine if the dish becomes dry. You want the liquid in the dish to be about ½ to ¾ of the way up the meat. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving. Serve alongside boiled potatoes and rice. For extra flavor on the potatoes throw the boiled potatoes in with the goat during the last 30 minutes of cooking being careful not to disturb the platina that has formed on the goat.