Chanfana de Cabrito (Chanfana Style Oven Roasted Goat)

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.

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