A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cooking A Goose

Yes, there were many jokes about our goose being cooked.

For Christmas I was going to roast a duck -- the perfect two-person holiday meal, with just enough delicious leftovers and rich stock. But the grocery store was out of ducks, so Lawson bought a goose instead. (A very expensive goose, as it turned out, so we felt extra-compelled to use every little bit of it.)

I proceeded to read everything I could about cooking geese. I decided to skip Joy's complicated two-day process for drying out the skin; decided to skip stuffing, too. I read about goose anatomy and goose grease. I'm glad for it, too, because it prepared me for some of the strangeness of goose.

The bird weighed 11 pounds. It was big, but just short enough to fit on a regular pan, unlike a turkey.

I took off the wing tips, rubbed the thing with salt, put it on a little folding metal poultry rack, set it in a deep pan and roasted it at 400 for 30 minutes, then 350 for a few hours. I flipped it from breast down to breast up halfway through the cooking time. I let the meat temp get pretty high since there was so much fat -- maybe 175 in the breast and somewhat more in the thigh.

Here were some of the strange things about goose:

An incredible amount of fat rendered off that goose. More than a quart and a half. It filled the deep roasting pan twice over, and there was still plenty left in the skin, not to mention the chunks I'd pulled from the cavity beforehand. Pre-cooking, the whole bird felt greasy and weird, like a hunk of sheep.

I have a lot of it left over in jars in the fridge.

It's great fat: snowy white and mild, really delicious. I roasted potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes and turnips in it to great effect. I intend to use it in tamale dough soon.

Goose Cracklins
The skin on the goose was still pretty blubbery, so I didn't serve it. Instead, I cut it into strips with scissors and put it in the roasting pan at about 290 degrees to render further, per Julia Child. Now I have a container of crispy goose cracklins. They are incredible.

Connective Tissue
Parts of the goose are clean and easy to eat. But parts -- particularly the back, wings and the part of the breast closest to the bone -- have a ton of connective tissue, almost like the muscle fibers are wrapped in casing. You know how you can sort of push meat off a chicken backwith your thuumbs? Not so with a goose. It meant some meat loss, as some of the bird wasn't good for regular plate eating. The dog got some gristly bits, and some went into stock.

Big Cavity
There's a lot of space inside a goose. I understand the desire to stuff it, but I think leaving it empty helped it cook better and render more fat.

Tight Joints
That's how Joy described them -- and they were right. I wish I had pictures of me grappling with that bird before roasting. It was bony, very bony, and I found out what "tight joints" meant when I tried to trim the enormous wing tips. Much twisting and crunching of bone ensued. The dog was impressed.

After roasting, the bird remained tight: prying a leg off was quite hard.

Good Stock
The carcass made lovely stock -- copious amounts of it, too. The enormous gizzards, the heart, and the two-foot neck helped, too.

Goose Liver is Not Foie Gras
The liver was just a regular liver, not fattened and yellow and mild like foie gras. It was tasty, though: I sauteed it and sliced it, then deglazed the pan with a few drops of Cointreau and poured that over it. It tasted like duck liver, fairly dark but not at all bitter and only faintly musky.

Amazing Gravy
I made a simple, classic gravy with pan drippings, red wine, black pepper and flour.

The Final Yield
Two big meals of roasted goose with root vegetables and gravy.
One goose liver appetizer.
Five quarts of stock.
One batch of goose tortilla soup (chicken tortilla soup with goose stock and goose meat).
One week of dog dinner supplementation with goose scraps.
One cup of goose cracklins.
Two pint jars of pure goose fat.

1 comment:

Kris said...

Whew! Quite a project!

Tamales made with goose fat could qualify you for precious-food status, I fear. On the other hand, they'll probably be wonderful.

I admire the way you used every morsel of the roast beast. You were brought up well.