Cabrito is a dish made from a young kid goat. Traditionally, it is roasted, although the term is sometimes more generally used to refer to any dish with kid goat, ranging from stewed to grilled preparations. This dish is widely eaten in Latin America, and it is also common in Texas and several other parts of the American Southwest, thanks to the heavy influence of Latin American cuisine on the food of this region.
Generally, the kid used to make cabrito is between one and three months of age, when it is especially young and tender. Even when young, however, goats have dark, gamy meat, which does best with a very slow cooking preparation that tenderizes the meat while bringing out the flavor. Traditional roast cabrito fits this requirement quite nicely, which may explain why it has become such a popular dish in Latin America.
Monterrey, Mexico, is generally viewed as the world headquarters of cabrito, and many restaurants prepare theirs “Monterrey Style.” There are actually several traditional ways to make the dish; one of the most common is to roast a whole kid on a spit over a slow-burning charcoal fire, turning it frequently and basting well to enhance the flavor. Cabrito can also be prepared in a pit roast, which is popular for big parties, as the kid can be buried and then ignored for several hours before being dug up to eat.
People can eat cabrito straight, fold it in tortillas, dip it in salsa, or shred it over rice and beans. In Texas, it is common to see cabrito burgers and other more American adaptations of this dish, melding the intense flavor of goat with foods popular in the United States. In the United States, using pieces of the goat rather than a whole animal are common, as pieces take much less time to cook, although in regions with a large Latin American community, whole roast goat is the dish of choice for many celebrations.
One reason cabrito is so popular is that goats are extremely hardy animals, capable of navigating difficult terrain and thriving in hostile environments. This is in marked contrast with cows, which require much more fodder and care. In rocky, semi-barren regions of Latin America and the American Southwest, raising cows is not really feasible, so people are forced to breed and raise goats, and to come up with ways to use the animals.