Getting the Goat at UC Santa Cruz

Published in Menu Strategies

Students of the University of California at Santa Cruz may expand their gastronomic horizons by sampling birria, a spicy Mexican goat stew, in the dining hall.

It introduces them to a meat popular around the world, if only just starting to win fans in the U.S. Some creative chefs tout goat as a lighter, leaner and more distinctively flavored alternative to familiar red meats, especially for global dishes.

“We try to be as authentic with our food as possible,” says Dwight Collins, executive chef of UC Santa Cruz Dining.

The birria is served on a build-your-own taco bar alongside chicken, pork and a vegan protein option, plus tortillas, guacamole, sour cream, onion and cilantro.

Goat tastes “kind of like a sweet cross between pork and beef,” says Collins. In birria, it absorbs the flavors of a marinade made with guajillo chile, garlic, cumin and vinegar.

“There is a sweetness and sourness,” Collins says. “It is almost like the barbacoa or carne al pastor in Mexican restaurants.”

The goat is steamed inside a lidded roasting pan with a little water. The edges of the lid and pan are sealed with a rope of masa dough to hold the steam. After about three hours, the tender meat is removed from the pan and the bones and gristle are removed. It is brushed with chili paste and returned to the oven to glaze. Ultimately it is sliced, panned for the taco bar and moistened with some of the defatted cooking liquid.

It helps to have cooks with a knack for birria. “We have a mostly Hispanic staff that really knows how to prepare it,” says Collins. “So it is very authentic and delicious.”

Menu Sampler: UC Santa Cruz Dining

  • Spicy Tempeh with Garlic & Basil
  • Cuban Spiced Chicken Thighs with Chorizo and Rice
  • Roast Pork Loin with Parsley and Shallot Sauce 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
unsung heroes graphic

Febin Bellamy, a senior at Georgetown University, is the founder of Unsung Heroes, a nonprofit that features service workers on college campuses in man-on-the-street-style Facebook interviews. This year, Bellamy is working with a dozen schools to launch their own chapters of the storytelling platform. Here’s what he’s learned about staff shoutouts.

Q: Why did you decide to start Unsung Heroes?

A: One day I started a conversation with a custodial worker in the business school that I would see all the time. I learned that we had a lot of similarities; for instance, we both wanted to...

Ideas and Innovation
bolognese sauce

We’re trying to bring scratch cooking to all the elementary schools, but we’re taking it dish by dish. Right now, we satellite a lot of the dishes out. This month we made a Bolognese from scratch, and went to each of the schools to talk to them about the process and see if they could implement it. It helps us find out the hurdles and what they are going to need to make it work.

Ideas and Innovation
rolling silverware

Ensuring that employees regularly complete the busywork missing from their daily checklist can be a challenge, but these tasks often help an operation run efficiently with fewer unexpected costs. At Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Regional Executive Chef Dustin Cochran has found a solution to ensure his walk-in coolers always have a clean vent. Cochran starts with a thorough cleaning of the vent, then slips a hairnet over it to catch the dust. Instead of getting employees to deep clean the vents, they need only replace the hairnet.

Ideas and Innovation
chicken and waffles

Our elementary menu is currently riding the breakfast-anytime advertising trend by offering Breakfast for Lunch every Tuesday. It ranks as our highest participation, and it was a great way for us to introduce chicken and waffles inspired by an IHOP dish.

FSD Resources