Roast goose isn't a typical American holiday tradition, but it does evoke warm and toasty Dickens-like emotions, thanks to the Crachit's dinner in A Christmas Carol. I have roasted many a goose for various Christmas articles and books. My friends still joke me about the time I served roast goose for a July dinner because I had tested it for a magazine article with a long lead time. There are many caveats to putting a goose on the holiday table.
Roast Goose with Port Wine Gravy
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Make Ahead: The goose must be refrigerated 2 days before serving. The rendered goose fat and stock can be made up to 2 days ahead.
Goose is a big bird, but first-time cooks should know that its size is deceiving--it doesn’t yield a lot of meat. You will only get 6 to 8 servings from an average 11-pounder. That said, the meat is dark, rich, and flavorful, reminiscent of both roast duck and well-done roast beef. In order to stretch the servings, offer lots of side dishes, like Braised Red Cabbage with Apples, Chestnut and Prune Stuffing, and Giant Potato and Leek Rösti.
•If possible, order a fresh goose from a specialty butcher. Frozen geese are also available, and are quite good. Thaw frozen goose in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, then dry the fresh or thawed goose overnight on a rack in the refrigerator (see below).
•Goose gives off a great amount of fat during cooking (around 3 cups!), which is a blessing in disguise. Goose fat is an excellent medium for frying and sautéing, especially in potato dishes like Giant Potato and Leek Rösti. There is plenty of visible fat to remove from the tail area and render in a saucepan. However, most of it is hidden in the skin, and needs it needs to cooked out or the skin will be unappetizingly rubbery and greasy. My method uses two tricks to draw out the fat, culled from recipes for crisp-skinned Peking duck. First, leave the goose uncovered in the refrigerator for a day or two to dry and stretch the skin, which open the pores and helps the fat run out of the skin during roasting. Second, steam the goose on a rack in a covered oval roasting pan (such as an old-fashioned turkey roaster) on top of the stove, a procedure that draws out the initial amount of fat better than roasting.
•Unlike turkey, you should be able to fit the entire batch of stuffing in the goose body cavity. Also, unlike turkey, the large opening to a stuffed goose needs to be sewn shut. Trussing needles are hard to find, even at professional restaurant supply stores. Mattress or canvas needles are easily purchased at sewing or hobby shops. They are long and sturdy, with large eyes that can thread cotton butcher’s twine. I store my “goose needle” in my kitchen gadget drawer, taped to inside of the drawer with a large piece of making tape, so it can’t get lost.
•Make Homemade Goose Stock (see end of recipe) to flavor the stuffing and make the gravy. The boney wing tips are always removed from goose before roasting because they have tendency to burn. Along with the goose neck and heart (the liver would make the stock bitter and is used in the stuffing), the wing tips are the beginning of a great stock, but a bit of chicken broth boosts the poultry flavor. If you don’t own a heavy cleaver that will cut through the strong bones, have the butcher remove the wing tips and chop them, along with the goose neck, before you bring the bird home.
•Goose should be cooked to 175°F, but don’t expect the tenderness of the turkey. The joints of a goose, especially at the hip and wings, are very tight, and always take some work to pry them from the body. The skin is one of the best parts of the goose, and should be served in generous portions.
â— Rösti is one of my favorite potato dishes, but you can also simply roast wedges on another oven rack with the goose. Peel and cut 4 baking potatoes into 8 wedges each. Place in a bowl and toss with about 1/4 cup rendered goose fat. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet, and bake for about 1 1/4 hours, turning after 45 minutes, until tender and browned. If the potatoes aren’t done when the goose is, just keep roasting them at 400°F while the goose is standing before roasting. Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, and chopped fresh thyme before serving.
One 10 to 12-pound goose, thawed if frozen
Chestnut and Prune Stuffing
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons rendered goose fat or butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 2/3 cups Homemade Goose Stock
1/3 tawny or ruby port
1. The day before roasting, rinse the goose and pat dry with paper towels. Pull out the clumps of pale yellow fat from around the tail cavity. Cut off any excess neck skin and reserve. Cut off the wings at the second joints, leaving only the last wing segment attached to the goose. Use the neck, giblets (no liver), and wing tips to make the stock, reserving the liver for the stuffing. Cover and refrigerate the fat, skin, wings, neck, wing tips, and liver until ready to use.
2. Place the goose on a rack in a roasting pan. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. The skin will dry out, but that’s what you want.
3. Meanwhile, render the goose fat: Coarsely chop the goose fat and cut the skin into thin strips. Place in a medium saucepan and add 1/4 cup warm water. Cook with the lid ajar over medium-low heat until the fat has rendered into a golden liquid and the skin strips are lightly browned, about 2 hours. Strain through a wire sieve into a bowl and let cool to room temperature. (You can discard the cracklings in the sieve or reserve them to serve sprinkled on a green salad.) Store the fat in small containers (1-cup deli containers work well), as you will most likely be using it in small amounts. Makes about 2 cups. (The rendered fat can be stored, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.)
4. When ready to roast the goose, fill the body cavity with the stuffing. Using a trussing needle and kitchen twine, sew up the opening. Using the tip of the needle, prick the goose skin all over (without reaching into the meat), especially in the thigh area.
5. Place the goose on a rack in a covered oval roasting pan. Add 2 cups of water in the pan and bring to a boil on top of the stove over high heat. Cover tightly and reduce the heat to low. Steam the duck for 1 hour. Remove the goose on the rack from the pan, and pour out the liquid in the pan. Return the goose and the rack to the pan and season the goose with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
6. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Roast the goose, uncovered, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (without touching a bone) reads 175°F, about 1 1/2 hours. During the last 15 minutes of roasting, increase the oven temperature to 400°F to crisp the skin. As goose roasts and rendered fat accumulates in the pan, use a bulb baster to remove and add it to the rendered fat from Step 2, if desired, or discard. Transfer the goose to serving platter and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
7. To make the gravy, pour all of the rendered fat out of the pan into the reserved fat. Set the roasting pan on two burners on medium-low heat. Add 1/4 cup of the rendered goose fat to the pan. Sprinkle the flour into the pan, whisking constantly. Let the mixture bubble until it turns beige, about 1 minute. Whisk in the stock and port, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. (Save the remaining stock for another use. It is an excellent substitute for chicken stock.) Simmer for about 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Season the gravy with salt and pepper. If desired, strain the gravy. Transfer to a warmed sauceboat.
8. Carve the goose, knowing that most of the meat is situated at the breast. Serve with a spoonful of the stuffing and a portion of the crisp skin. Pass the gravy on the side.
Goose Stock. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped goose neck, heart, and gizzard and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add 1 each chopped onion, carrot, and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved skin, 1 quart canned low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade chicken stock) and enough cold water to cover the ingredients by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Add 6 parsley sprigs, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns. Simmer until full-flavored, about 3 hours. Strain into a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Skim off and reserve the chilled fat from the surface of the stock.