Cooking Christmas Goose
Happy geese! Geese are a good ethical choice as they’re not suitable for intensive farming systems. Two of our friends are supplying free-range geese this Christmas — Alternative Meats (see picture), £75 birds from a Shropshire farm, last delivery 20 December; or birds priced by weight from Munns & Son – get your orders in soon (still available as at 9 December 2017). Munns also do fantastic goose fat — essential for Christmas roast potatoes. From 11 December, you can also order a genuine “Golden Goose” (still free-range) from Donald Russell — coated in glistening 23-carat edible gold!
NB If you are lucky enough to get a goose liver, please do not chop it up to go in the stuffing – sauté it lightly in good butter and enjoy with a glass of Sauternes. You may want to don a smoking jacket as you do this — it is important to recognise a big occasion.
Goose is absolutely delicious. The skin is much crisper than on chicken or turkey; if you like pork crackling, you have to try goose. It’s also much better (more flavourous) cold than other birds: do tuck into cold goose & chutney sandwiches on Boxing Day
- Roast: Roast goose like a chicken, or braise — which prevents dryness. Don’t add fat, but pour wine or water into the roasting tin for moisture. Because it’s so fatty, acidic stuffings & sides are good — balsamic or cider vinegar, orange zest, cooking apples, pineapple, dry red wine eg Merlot. Truffles, mushrooms or prunes are good
- With Apples & Prunes — core some baking apples, stuff them with prunes and butter, and roast them alongside the goose. Maybe a little brandy as well?
- Risotto: Goose stock is quite strong. Make it by simmering the goose carcase for a couple of hours. Make risotto as normal (onion, garlic & herbs; white wine or sherry, butter and parsley, any spare mushrooms). Stir the stock into the risotto little by little. Further options: mushroom ketchup, tikka massala powder, 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cure any bitterness with a little apple juice or sugar — pinch by pinch — stir and taste between each pinch (Indian cookery uses sugar as a spice in this way)
- Confit: do not fear this dish. Submerge goose legs in goose fat and cook overnight at about 70ºC, or until the flesh falls off the bone. Serve with redcurrant jelly
- Oyonnade: Traditional French stew, made with goose-blood and liver, wine and spirits, and served with swedes. A challenge for advanced cooks!
- Sandwiches: Also traditional, but easier than oyonnade. Make with your very best chutney and cheese; try Hembridge for some excellent organic chutneys and piccalilli.
Our wine expert, Richard J. Smith, founder of the Wine Schools of Cheshire and of London, gives the following advice on white, red, and sparkling wine matches for goose, sage and cranberries.
WHITE WINE is a great pairing with goose, but the festive trimmings call for something a little different. The obvious choice is a lightly oaked Chardonnay — but you could try dry Riesling instead. Look to the other side of the world; some of the best dry Rieslings are found in Claire Valley, Australia. The subtle hint of aromatics, no oak but plenty of flavour, will embrace all the veg and sauces.
Various RED WINES work, from medium to fuller bodied. Try the organic Terre di Faiano Primitivo from Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot): packed with fruit but not over-powering. Burgundy also comes to mind, and Pinot Noir works very well (but nothing too light). Try former French Rugby pro Gérard Bertrand’s Domaine de L’Aigle, now widely available. This great tipple of Languedoc-Roussillon is packed with summer fruits and depth of flavour at a great price.
FIZZ! Keep the home fires burning with Three Graces from Kent’s Chapel Down. A blend of classic Champagne grapes, it’s wonderfully balanced and a great food fizz. Or push the boat out and go for Bollinger La Grande Année 2005. At about £75 a bottle, it competes with far more expensive Champagnes. For just £13-£15, try Graham Beck Brut Blanc de Blancs 2009. Made on the lees, its yeasty flavour pairs perfectly with sage and cranberry.
Geese have enjoyed a reputation as guard animals ever since 380 BC, when their cacklings famously saved ancient Rome by alerting the Capitol to a Gaulish attack. Ungratefully, the Romans continued to eat goose and, like the ancient Egyptians, cram them to enlarge their livers. Such livers have been prized for millenia. French fois gras geese can weigh up to two stone.
Virtually all of a goose can be turned to good use. Goose fat, or grease, enjoys an almost mythic status — it was rubbed on chests to treat colds and flu. Goose fat is the nonpareil for roasting potatoes, and can be used as a preservative. The feet form a popular southern French dish, and Germanic and Scandinavian countries prefer Christmas goose to turkey. The down makes incomparable bedding and, in the past, even their feather quills were used — to make pens and arrow flights.
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