I hope everyone had a good and safe Christmas. Ours was, in turn, very exciting and very laid-back. My husband broke a bone just before Christmas, so the days leading up to the holiday were filled with crutches, casts, and trips to the hospital. Things are starting to settle down a bit (knock on wood), and I’m hoping there are no more disasters in the few days leading up to New Year’s.
This year for Christmas dinner I decided to make a goose. My last experience with goose was many years ago when my mother decided to do a “traditional Dickens Christmas,” ala A Christmas Carol. We had goose and plum pudding and Christmas crackers and all the other trappings you’d find when dining with Bob Cratchit and family. Unfortunately, the only tradition that survived that Christmas was the Christmas crackers. The goose, while tasty enough, was a bit of a hassle and just didn’t have enough meat for a family of five. My family has since gone back to a Christmas ham or turkey.
However, here in Winnipeg there is only my husband and me to feed. With that in mind, we found ourselves a 4.2kg (about 9 lb) goose, and I started researching how to cook it.
I used my experience with the duck several years ago as a starting point. Waterfowl are naturally fatty birds, with a layer of fat just under the skin to keep them warm in chilly water. The first thing I found when I unwrapped our goose a few days before Christmas was just how much fattier the goose was compared to the duck. I pulled great handfuls of fat out of the bird’s cavity, and plunked it down into a saucepan to render.
Next, I used the tip of a wooden skewer to prick the goose’s skin all over, making sure not to poke into the meat. These holes provide lots of tiny channels for the fat to run off while the bird is roasting. Then, I boiled the bird.
No, it’s ok! Several recipes recommended either steaming the bird or submerging it in boiling water for two minutes, and then letting it dry in the fridge for two days. This was supposed to help crisp up the skin. (It also made the bird a bit goose-pimply, which I found funny.)
On the big day, I pulled the bird out of the fridge and rubbed the skin all over with a mixture of kosher salt, lemon zest and pepper. The cut lemon halves went into the cavity along with a mixture of rosemary, sage and thyme. I also trimmed off the wingtips to prevent them from burning, and used them along with the neck to make gravy.
After setting the goose breast-down on the roasting rack, I popped it into a 425°F oven for 20 minutes, and then lowered the temperature to 325°F. After an hour at the lower temperature, I removed the roaster from the oven and drained off the fat that had collected in the bottom, and I flipped the goose onto its back. Back it went into the oven for another 45 minutes.
By this time the goose was reading between 165°F to 175°F in the thigh and breast. (Health Canada does not distinguish safe internal temperatures for chicken and waterfowl, but the USDA recommendation is 165°F for goose. It doesn’t need to be cooked as well-done as chicken or turkey.) After letting it rest for 20 minutes, we carved it.
As I said earlier, there isn’t as much meat on a goose as you would get on a similarly-sized turkey. (I think part of the reason might be because they’re much sturdier birds. When stripping the carcass later, my husband found the wishbone, which was the thickest, most serious wishbone I’ve ever seen.) However, goose is the bird that keeps giving. All together, I got about four cups of rendered fat from the goose. Half is in the fridge, and half is in the freezer. This will be used for roast potatoes, sautéed vegetables, and anything else I can think of to use it on. And finally, we’ll get several gallons of stock from the bones.
Merry Christmas, everyone, and I hope you have a Happy New Year!