I’ve made goose before and been disappointed. While the breast was tasty, it was small and the legs were sinewy and tough. After spending $75 on a goose, that was a bitter pill to swallow. This year I decided to give it one last go at the behest of Brad of Abundant Acres (my favorite fine rug salesmen turned pastured chicken, goose, duck and rabbit farmer.)
In order to make sure I was giving the goose it’s due, I dusted off my flood-tarnished but neglected set of Cooks Illustrated books and found an article on cooking goose. The author mentioned that goose is like stew – the most common mistake you can make is to undercook it. Sure enough, this is what I’ve always done in the past – because I’ve always been worried about overcooking my pastured chickens and turkeys. Goose is not like other pastured birds though, because of the high amount of fat. But don’t let that fat put you off because it’s hard earned on a diet of bugs and grass. The goose fat that I rendered was the whitest, lightest fat ever.
Although I was skeptical about the overcooking thing I gave it a go. I stuffed the goose (let’s call him Gil) with thyme, prunes, and quartered clementines destined for stockings, then put Gil in the oven on a roasting rack breast side down at 400F. After 30 minutes I then turned the oven down to 350F. In the meantime, I poured a bottle of syrah over some prunes in a small pan on the stove and simmered for fifteen minutes before straining out the prunes and reserving them. I continued simmering the wine until it had reduced to a velvety, thick texture.
I left Gil to his own devices for about an hour and a half and scrubbed and quartered some lovely yellow potatoes from Michael Pilarski. When I took Gil out, I lifted the roasting rack and placed the potatoes in the bottom of the roasting pan underneath the rack. I flipped Gil over and returned him to the oven. As Gil finished cooking, he rendered his own fat down onto those fluffy jo-jo sponges.
At around the three hour mark, when Gil was as relaxed and bronzed as a tourist in Jamaica, I noted the meat on the drumstick was as soft to the touch as well stewed meat, just as Cook’s Illustrated had instructed. I took him out of the oven to rest for thirty minutes, drained off the extra fat and browned the jo-jos.
I added a few tablespoons of goose fat to the sauce, carved up thin slices of Gil and served with the prunes and a roast Kubocha squash, kale and Lentz emmer salad. Now people, I’ve never understood the popularity of prunes and chalked it up to our apparent lack of dietary fiber in this country but I was schooled that night. Simmered in syrah – or better yet – straight from Gil and married with a hint of clementine, they were stupendous.
So forget anything you may have read about not overcooking goose (especially if it was from me). Let Gil be your guide.