Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Neglected Bird

Do people eat goose (geese?) around Christmas? I have a vague notion that they do or did at some point in time. Being the good Jewish women that we are, my Mom and I cooked a goose this Christmas day, just to say we did. It was an experience.

Let me preface by saying that I now know enough to stay away from cooking whole birds. This year’s Thanksgiving turkey experience is likely to stay with me for years - anything larger than a chicken now paralyzes me with fear. When I say that my Mom and I cooked a goose, I mean that she let me chop things while she cooked a goose. I am an excellent chopper.

I had never seen a goose wrapped in plastic before and, therefore, feel the need to describe it. Ours resembled a small, elongated turkey. Its body was long, its wings were long, its neck (stuffed where it wouldn’t reach under normal circumstances) was long. I found the sight of the long wings somewhat disquieting but I am not sure why. Perhaps they were too arm-like for my comfort. The breast of the goose seemed atrophied as compared to a turkey - there was not a lot of meat there.

The key thing about geese is this – they are basically bags of fat. This wasn’t even one of them force-fed geese that are now inaccessible to Chicago’s dining community (I will have to leave Boston if they ever ban foie gras here. I am not kidding). Ours was a farm-raised, free range, organic, hippie, happy goose and it was still a bag of fat. I know, I know – fat is flavor, but wow. Trimming the bird took a bit of time.
(Please note that I abstained from posting a picture of a pile of goose fat. Said picture can be produced upon request).

We followed Emeril’s recipe for roasting the goose. His approach involves the thoroughly gruesome step of poking holes all over the bird to allow rendering fat to escape during cooking and dousing the goose with boiling water every half hour to help that fat render. And render it did. There was goose fat all over the oven door, on the floor by the oven, and hanging in the
kitchen air. There must have been an inch of fat at the bottom of the roasting pan. After the cooking was done I felt as though I was covered in a thin layer of goose fat. I smelled goose everywhere I turned for a day following.

So how did it taste? Like a cross between a turkey and a duck - not as gamey as duck but more flavorful that turkey. It was dark meat all over like a duck, more fatty (for discussion, see above), and more chewy. The breast meat was great – juicy, tender, and flavorful. The rest of the bird, however – the legs and all other accessory parts – were rather tough and not very pleasant to eat, although the wonderful mild duck flavor was still there.

We were surprised to find that our 12 pound goose really only fed three people. That’s a lot of inedible goose! The ever-wise they say that a four pound chicken can feed four people while a four pound duck can feed just two. I would say that a four pound goose, if such a thing existed, would feed only one.

Ever seen goose on a restaurant menu? I haven’t, not once. Maybe it’s not economically sound to offer goose when only a fourth of it (breast meat) is desirable. It does seem odd for the restaurant industry to neglect an entire species of farmed bird, though it does explain
why the high schoolers at the Whole Foods checkout counter didn’t know that people eat geese.

At the end of the night, with the goose experience behind us, my Mom decided that she doesn’t like goose and I decided that I need a shower to wash that goose off. I think that the tougher texture and more delicate flavor of goose is better suited to slower cooking methods as opposed to roasting. Goose confit would be fantastic, especially since the fat can be removed once the confit is chilled. Food (goose) for thought.

Update: I asked an actual chef why actual restaurants don't serve goose. This was Chef Josh's response : "Because it's a pain in the ass." Concise and to the point. I couldn't have said it better myself.


jc said...

Interesting. I've never had goose. I'm thinking that the Christmas goose is an English tradition, but I'm not sure (you know, Tiny Tim and all that). I have had duck, and I remember how fatty I thought it was. If goose is even more fatty, I probably wouldn't like it either! A few years ago I beat my family down by mentioning "turducken" every chance I got. Have you ever had that?

Rachael said...

I swear, the goose itself is only an excuse to render the fat. The fat is where its AT! I keep one goose worth's of fat (about a cup and a half usually) in my fridge and it lasts for months. Why? Roasted potatoes in goose fat are a dream. Well, my dream.

Awesome post, thanks!

Happy New Year!


Anna said...

JC - Turduckhen! Ha! I first heard about it in high school but I thought people were snowing me... till I saw it in a magazine last year. Wow. That takes carniverous to a whole new level. Have never had it. You? Now I am so curious...

Rachael - You are now, officially, hardcore. You have goose fat in your fridge? That's awesome! My Mom told me that's how my "ancestors" (she used that word) made their potatoes - fried in goose fat. Cool. I would like to say that I will try it soon, but I think I need a time out from all things goose.

Happy New Year!

jc said...

I have not had any turducken. A friend of mine bought a turkey fryer several years ago and wanted to fry a turducken, but you can't really fry one because you need the oil to circulate through the center of the bird, a turducken wouldn't cook on the inside in a fryer. And I have never roasted any bird in my oven.

And I found this on Wikipedia:
"In the UK the Turducken is commonly known as a three-bird roast. English chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall expanded this into a ten-bird roast (a turgoduckmaguikenantidgeonck - turkey, goose, duck, mallard, guineafowl, chicken, pheasant, partridge, pigeon, woodcock)"

Anna said...

Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has far too much time on his hands. I am surprised he did't try to stuff a bald eagle in there somewhere. Or perhaps a swan. Pterodactyl, maybe? I didn't know a duck was different from a mallard. Ooops.

Francoise said...

I have a wild goose in my fridge hung,plucked and cleaned ready for fri night supper. My two young sons poached it from a harvested field before the hunters could claim their prize. I laughed my arse off reading your blog! Please light an extra candle for us tomorrow and will keep you posted on the bird.

Adin said...

Perhaps the key to serving the precious little meat on a goose is to have a whole range of stoppers - that is, side dishes to stop people eating the goose! Worked for me! I'd always wondered why you never see confit of goose in France, and now I know. Our 7-lb goose produced 3-lb of fat, but man, what splendid fat it is. And I agree with you on the milder flavour. Bit like a duck that's been to finishing school...