One Christmas, about twelve years ago, I got it in my head that we needed to serve goose for Christmas. I was feeling very nostalgic – thinking not of my own Christmas Past, but Christmas of long ago and far away. Dreaming of a Charles Dickens Christmas. The problem was, I knew absolutely nothing about cooking a goose except a few basics.
First – a goose is incredibly fatty – as in massive amounts of fat. (I was so shocked by the amount of fat, that I actually took a picture of it – long before blogging ever entered my mind. Glad I did, so I could share it with you today.) Goose fat is a good thing for future use, but not so good if you don’t remove as much as possible BEFORE roasting the bird. Good news here is that the fat is located in pockets, most found around the opening of the cavity and can be easily removed. Remarkably, this fatty bird actually has very lean meat.
Second – because the meat itself is extremely lean, it can dry out easily. A goose needs some T.L.C. To prevent the meat from drying out, I decided that filling the cavity of the bird with pears and orange slices would help keep the meat moist from the inside. (Inspired by my own experience with Apple Stuffed Roast Chicken).
Third – a goose can be tough. At least that’s what I’ve heard, but having never eaten a goose much less cooked one – this was a rumor – the truth of which I sought to avoid. Common sense said a smaller bird was younger, and less likely to be tough. Still, I was afraid. What if the bird was so dry and tough that Christmas dinner was a complete bust? What to do . . . what to do . . . and then a light came on. First, slice an orange and rub the bird inside and out with the orange. The acid in the juice will act as a tenderizer and begin to break down the meat long before cooking. Second, inject the bird with apple brandy. The brandy will impart a wonderful flavor to the meat, as well as to help keep it moist and tender. What I didn’t realize when I made this decision was that injecting the bird would also allow some of the fat between the skin and the meat find a way to escape during the roasting process. This turned out to be a good thing as well since the bird wasn’t swimming in its own internal fat.
What I didn’t realize about a roasted goose is that the meat is all dark. And I’m not talking dark as in chicken dark – I’m talking dark as in beef dark. Sliced goose breast more closely resembles sliced roast beef. Another drawback to goose is that it does not render big, plump slices of breast meat the way a turkey does. So plan to serve a second meat dish if feeding more than a few people. A second meat selection wouldn’t be a bad idea no matter what – goose isn’t for everyone. It has a wonderful, gamey flavor. If you don’t like to walk on the wild side, you won’t like goose. However; for those feeling a big more adventurous, come swim with me on the deep end of the pool.
Sometimes when guessing, you guess right. Knowing that a goose tends to dry out, knowing that an overcooked goose tends to have a livery flavor, and knowing that a duck is served medium-rare (pink), it made sense that a goose would be cooked in the same fashion. Turkeys and chicken are cooked in similar fashion. It made sense that a goose would be cooked like a duck. Ducks are served nearly raw at times. For whatever reason, you can eat an undercooked duck but not an undercooked chicken. Go figure.
1 Young Goose, about 6-8 lbs
1 large orange, sliced
1 Cup Brandy
½ Cup Butter
1 Tablespoon Poultry Seasoning
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Large Syringe or Flavor Injector
2 Bartlett Pears, cut into chunks
1 Orange, peeled and broken into natural slices
Lay goose on a clean counter. Reach inside the tail end and remove the excess fat. There will be an incredible amount of fat. Reach under the skin of the breast and remove some of the pockets of fat as well. (If desired, reserve and render for later use)
Slice first orange, rub bird inside and out with the orange. Discard orange. Inject bird inside and out with brandy. Let bird rest for a few hours in the refrigerator for the orange and brandy to soak in and begin to tenderize the meat. (Overnight is fine, too).
In a small bowl, mix butter and seasonings. Remove bird from the refrigerator and rub LIGHTLY with butter mixture. The goose will have enough fat on its own, this mixture is more to give the skin a nice golden color.
Fill the cavity with apples and oranges. Fill the neck with smaller pieces of fruit. Let bird rest again. It’s best to start roasting the bird once it has reached room temperature, so an hour or so before roasting is fine.
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place bird, breast side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack to keep bird from soaking in the pan drippings. Once oven has reached temperature, place goose in the oven, then IMMEDIATELY turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. Roast goose for 20 minutes per pound, lightly basting every 30 minutes.
After about an hour, if the skin is nice and brown, turn bird breast side down and roast another 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked medium-rare.
Remove goose from oven, tent to keep warm and let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer to serving platter, garnish with grapes, orange slices and other fruit as desired.
Carve and serve.