Cooking with Mom: Goat Caldereta

Last weekend, I found out that a few of my mom's sisters and my cousins would be in town and that we'd be having ourselves a little potluck. I wanted to make something really special for them, so I asked my mom to come along on a trip to the Asian market. Shopping with her never fails to inspire. And, right on cue, what do I see as soon as I walk into the meat section? Goat meat. It's not something that I see every day, so the proverbial lightbulb went off. This. I want this goat. I still remember the very first time that I ever ate goat. I was 8 years old, and while having dinner at my grandpa's house in the Philippines, my Auntie Margie gave me some of what I thought was beef caldereta...

She cautiously asked me, "Do you like the...beef...stew?"

I nodded my head, blissfully ignorant, "Mm hmm!"

"Yeah?? Good...'Cause it's GOAT!"


So after processing that information, I was still pretty damn good. Caldereta became one of my favorites, and it's one of many classic dishes influenced by the Spanish rule in the Philippines. ("Caldera" translates to "cauldron" in Spanish.) Originally, it's a tomato-based stew, so to make my "Potluck Special", Mom helped me create this take on traditional Goat Caldereta.

This recipe is enough for a big pot that will serve up to a dozen or so people, so I used about 5 1/2 pounds of meat. I bought it already cut into (roughly) 2 in. pieces with the skin on. After my mom advised me to wash the meat thoroughly, I gave it a rinse at least 3 times. Goat can also have a funky odor, and she said it's important to get rid of that before you stew it. A lot of recipes say to marinate the meat in a vinegar mixture first, but this step is definitely a case of "Different People Have Different Methods". My mom's is to just boil the meat with a couple pieces of ginger, so I went with that. When I tried to bring up that a lot of recipes online called for the vinegar marinade...all I got in response was the death-glare and a "Well, I'm not the internet. I'm your mom."...and something else in Tagalog that I didn't completely understand, but I wasn't going to ask...My point is, listen to your mother, okay. Always. She's right. Always...

After the boiling step, I drained the pot, then lightly tossed pieces of meat with flour. Then, I browned them in olive oil in a deep-sided pan. I ended up doing this in a couple of batches.

This browning process is the beginning of the sauce, our foundation of flavor. I removed the meat from the pan, and used the same pan to saute yellow onion and garlic. Next, some tomato paste is added and sauteed for about a minute.

Before I get back to the goat, I want to give a special mention to a couple of ingredients. For as long as I can remember, my mom has had Mama Sita's seasoning packets and sauces in her pantry. Standard, canned tomato sauce works just fine, but Mama Sita's gave the recipe a little extra oomph. And, while regular ol' white vinegar also fits into the "Works Just Fine" category, we used Cane Vinegar. The last special touch was...drum roll please...*cinnamon*. It takes the place of the traditional addition of liver spread...since I'm actually not a big fan of liver...and this warm, subtly sweet spice really pairs well with the goat to mildly accent its gaminess.

Now, back to the stew. I returned the meat to the pan and coated it well with the garlic, onion, & tomato paste. A packet of Mama Sita tomato sauce and 2 tbsp of vinegar went in next. My back was only turned for a minute, but when I looked back at the pan, my mom had already added the water. I asked her exactly how much she used, but that was a mistake because she never measures anything. "Um...about 2 Busters" were her exact words. Confused? Don't worry, so was I. What I ended up figuring out was that she meant two San Francisco Giants souvenir cups-worth. (They're the ones you get when you buy large sodas at AT&T Park. And yeah, I have about 20 of 'em.) She happened to use an Opening Day edition with Buster Posey on it...So...I partially filled one of them up and measured how much "about 2 Busters" actually is...Yes. Yes, I actually did. Because blog purposes! ...Then, finally, I added the seasonings: crushed bay leaves, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

Once the stew came to a simmer, I lowered the heat and put on the lid. Stirring every once in awhile helped keep the bottom from burning, especially after the first 30 minutes and the sauce had really thickened. After an hour and a half, I added sliced carrots, chopped red bell pepper, frozen peas, and garbanzo beans. The last 25 minutes of cooking are enough to let the vegetables become tender and absorb the flavors of the sauce. Normally, caldereta has potatoes, but I had garbanzo beans in the pantry so we used that as the starchy component instead. It helped keep the goat as the "heavyweight" of the dish.

At first, I was a little nervous to serve this dish because all of my aunts are amazing cooks and would so obviously whoop my a** in Filipino cuisine, but...I was so happy with how it came out, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it! (Most of the pot was eaten, then the rest was packed for everyone to take home. This made me do such a yippee-happy dance!) The goat was tender and all the flavors of the stew came together in the thick, hearty sauce. It's perfect for the Autumn season and when you're trying to stay warm on a chilly day. This one pot meal is true comfort food!

These are some photos from the family get-together. In the upper left, my mom is posing with 3 of her 6 sisters. My cousin Allan (who you might recognize from one of my Disneyland trips) decided to photobomb my shot of the buffet. Also, I made plenty of barbecue tri-tip, my Auntie Jessie (striped shirt) brought fried calamari with jalapenos, and my Auntie Christy (black blouse) brought my favorite Pan De Sal filled with pineapple cream cheese!

I love cooking with and learning from my mom, so whenever I'm given the chance to get in the kitchen with her, I gladly take it. It was fun to collaborate and to share our hard work with our loved ones. I look forward to sharing more Filipino recipes with all of you, and I hope they convince you to try our style of food :)

Goat Caldereta

Print Recipe
5 1/2 - 6 lbs Goat Meat,  large cubes & skin on
2 1-in. segments of Ginger, smashed
All Purpose Flour, for browning
Olive Oil, for browning
1 1/2 tbsp Minced Garlic
1 medium-size Yellow Onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 6-oz can Tomato Paste
1 7-oz packet Mama Sita's Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp Cane Vinegar
6 cups Water
2 Bay Leaves, crushed
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tbsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
2 large Carrots, 1/2 in. slices
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 cup Frozen Green Peas
1 15-oz can Garbanzo Beans

  1.  Place the goat meat in a large pot and rinse thoroughly with water at least 3 times. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the meat, add the smashed pieces of ginger, and bring the water to a boil. Once the meat has boiled for 3 minutes, remove from the stove, drain the water, and discard the ginger. (This step helps to eliminate any gamey odor that the goat may have.)
  2. Sprinkle flour over the goat, just to lightly coat. In a new deep-sided pan, brown the meat in a couple tbsp of olive oil. Do this in batches if necessary in order to avoid crowding the pan and steaming the meat. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Add more olive oil to the pan if needed and saute the garlic & sliced onions until the onions are tender and becoming translucent. Add the can of tomato paste and saute for 1 more minute. At this point, return the goat meat to the pan and mix to completely coat in the tomato paste.
  4. Next, add the packet of tomato sauce, 2 tbsp cane vinegar, and 6 cups of water. Season with 2 crushed bay leaves, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, bring the sauce to a simmer, then cover.
  5. Cook the stew for 2 hrs over low heat, stirring every once in awhile to prevent any burning on the bottom of the pan.
  6. With 25 minutes left, add the sliced carrot, chopped red pepper, green peas, and garbanzo beans. Also, taste the sauce at this point & adjust the salt/pepper to your liking and add more water if the sauce has reduced too much.
  7. Once the sauce has thickened and the vegetables are tender, the caldereta is ready to serve! This can be eaten as is or with a couple scoops of steamed white rice. Enjoy :)