Monday, December 20, 2010

The Diva Roasts A Goose

When Dave asked me for my Roast Goose recipe, I realized that I have nothing in writing. (Nor do I have any photos, so rest assured that I have not confused Mochie with a goose.) I went to my mom, who has roasted geese for over half a century. We had a ball looking through her cookbooks. She certainly tried a lot of recipes. I now know where my inclination to write in cookbooks came from. She had helpful notations, like "not good" written in the margins. As we looked at them, we realized that the majority of the recipes focused on the stuffing. Two and three pages long, they were all about the stuffing! So, here's what my mom and I have come up with over the years.

There are a few things you should know about geese. Unless you have a butcher, your goose will most likely be frozen. My mother insists (and not just in regard to geese) that one should never buy the biggest bird (or roast) because the bigger it is, the older the animal probably was, which means tougher meat. The average goose will be around 10-12 pounds.

Geese, like duck, are all one color of meat. There's no light and dark meat like a turkey. I find that a duck usually feeds two to three people and a goose feeds four to six people.

Of course, I can't speak for all stores or all areas of the country, but over the past few years, I've been highly amused (and mildly frightened) by the prices on geese. Our WalMart and our upscale grocery store carry the exact same brand of goose. WalMart immediately prices them around $30ish. The upscale store starts them at $70ish and, within weeks, marks them down to $30ish. Last summer I was shopping at a super upscale store out of town and saw frozen geese (which were no doubt left over from the previous holiday season) still marked at $70ish. So, shop around.

I may lose some of you with this next part, since we Americans tend to be a bit squeamish about fat. Geese are very fatty birds. However, goose fat is good for us! Who'd have thought it? Goose fat is loaded with heart healthy fats and contains less saturated fat than butter or lard. In Germany and France (and apparently now, England), goose fat is prized as a cooking fat. Potatoes are fabulous cooked in goose fat, and it's even used as a spread on bread. You can actually buy rendered goose fat in a tub. Before you scream ewww, bleah, let me say one word -- bacon. It's not the meat that makes bacon so good, it's the fat. We love to use a little bacon fat in our cooking because the flavor is so good. Ah, you're thinking, but I don't smear it on bread. No? Three more little words -- BLT. An LT doesn't have quite the same appeal.

That said, the traditional Christmas Goose dinner that I grew up with doesn't involve stuffing. It's all about roast goose and the fat drippings. Like everything that has evolved over the ages, your Oma may have made her German Christmas dinner differently. My mother and I grew up with roast goose. But my mother's sister switched to her German husband's family tradition of serving Weisswurst, a white veal sausage, for Christmas Eve dinner. Two years ago, I met a woman from former East Germany, who bemoaned the fact that she couldn't find carp for her traditional German dinner.

At our house, the roast goose is served with potato dumplings. If you're not inclined to make your own, Panni brand potato dumplings are an easy and popular substitute. The dumplings are cooked in barely boiling water, and then rolled in the goose fat. Along with that, we always have traditional German red cabbage, but roasted chestnuts are added to the recipe on holidays.

Traditional German Roast Goose

1 goose
Kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
chopped garlic or onions

1. Remove the Goose from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator 3 - 4 days in advance of cooking.

2. 36 hours before roasting it, you should brine the goose. Use a food safe container that can hold the entire bird. It must be refrigerated during the brining process. Remove the giblets and neck prior to brining if possible. Place the goose in the container and add the brine.

1/2 cup Kosher salt per gallon of water. Use enough brine to cover the bird. Add 1/4 cup sugar to the brine. Leave the bird in the brine about 8 hours.

3. Remove the bird from the brine, rinse inside and out, and place on a roasting rack, UNCOVERED, in the refrigerator until ready to roast. Leaving it uncovered allows the skin to dry out and crisp during the roasting process.

Do not brine a bird with any added solution. If there's a solution, it should say so on the label. I've never seen anything added to a goose.

If you brine your goose, do not salt it before roasting.

4. Preheat the oven to 425. Remove the big chunk of fat at the tail end of the goose and save to render. Prick the goose skin in several spots with a fork so that the fat can drip out during cooking. Bend the wings back behind the bird. Start the goose breast down on a roasting rack placed inside a large roasting pan. After 45 minutes, flip the goose breast side up and reduce the heat to 350.

While the goose cooks, use a baster or large spoon to periodically remove excess fat from the bottom of the pan. If you don't, it will accumulate and splatter. Some people recommend basting the goose with some of its own fat. I tend to skip that step.

Anticipate at least another 45 minutes in the oven, however that will vary substantially with the oven and size of the bird, so start checking on it after 30 minutes or so. When you have about 15 -30 minutes of cooking time left (yes, you have to guess), add the chopped garlic or onions to the fat in the bottom of the pan.

(Years ago, my mom went through gyrations sewing the goose shut and skewering the legs together. It makes for a prettier goose, and I often skewer the legs in place, but it makes no difference in roasting.)

5. The USDA recommends cooking goose to an internal temperature of 165. You can move the legs of a done goose, much as you can the legs of a done chicken or turkey.

Remove the roasted goose to a carving board and let rest. Meanwhile, roll your potato dumplings in the garlic/onion goose fat and get ready to eat!

Merry Christmas!
Fröhliche Weihnachten!


  1. I think Mochie was looking around for the goose you were talking about!

    Isn't it funny how expensive and relatively hard to find geese are at the store? Having goose for dinner has a wonderful Old-World sort of feeling to it--like Dickens! Thanks for sharing this recipe with us, Krista. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your Christmas meal with us. I loved that you knew when we were going to say "eeww" to a particular dish.

    Happy Holidays!

  3. Wow, the Diva really does cook the goose! Great share. Love that you and your mother went through the cookbooks together. That's something I would have loved to do with my mom. I got a lot of recipes from her.

    BTW, the winner of yesterday's contest to win a copy of TLQG is up and posted right "before" your post. Someone who commented yesterday for our guest blogger is a winner.

    Say cheese!


  4. You've almost convinced me. I think I've had goose only once in my life, when a family friend invited us over for Christmas dinner. (I was not impressed.)

    Some chefs these days swear by duck fat for frying, particularly french fries. Then sprinkle a little truffle salt on them before serving. Should I admit I have both?

  5. I've never had goose... unless of course you count pate. This is an enormously interesting and informative post, Krista. Thank you! I learned so much this morning. And now I want to try goose too. Very cool.

  6. Elizabeth, Mochie was helping me decorate. He loves to climb the ladder. Goose does sound very old-fashioned, and it's a nice switch from turkey once a year.

    LOL, Dru! I knew some people would be grossed out. It's good, though, really! : )

    Avery, I hope everyone checks to see who won! Mom and I had fun looking through the old recipes -- some of them were really ancient!

    ~ Krista

  7. Sheila, you should definitely try goose. I think most people who like duck will also like goose. They're not exactly alike, but similar. And I hope you'll cook some potatoes in that duck fat and let us know how they turn out.

    Julie, I hope you'll try it sometime. You might even score a frozen goose on sale after the holidays!

    ~ Krista

  8. Krista - I was so impressed with this post that I called Marc over to read it, and we got together for this joint comment! A chef friend of ours always said "fat means flavor," which many cooks have said, of course, and we agree. We're not afraid of a little bit of fat in our dishes. Bacon fat, beef tallow, even good, old fashioned lard are ingredients in some of our favorite recipes, so those potato dumplings rolled in rendered goose fat, onions, and garlic, sound absolutely delicious to us.

    Having never hunted for goose -- in the shopping sense, guns are a no-no in NYC and there's not much game, anyway! :) We are now considering a visit to our local butcher, who guarantees he can provide one. We've been too chicken (pardon the pun) to try cooking one in the past, but armed with your mom's decades of wisdom, we can proceed with confidence. So MANY THANKS to you and your mom for cooking a goose for all of us!

    Warmest wishes for a Happy Holiday,
    ~ Alice and Marc
    (aka Cleo Coyle)
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. Alice and Mark, I'm thrilled that you're going to try a goose. I hope it's delicious! You can find anything in NYC, so I'm confidant that your butcher can indeed provide a goose. BTW, the leftover goose fat freezes well and can be pulled out for frying potatoes in January and February. A nice treat when it's cold out! I'm crossing my fingers and hope that you love the goose!

    ~ Krista

  10. I've done duck -- once -- but never a goose. However, I found our own 'traditional' stuffing that we use for Thanksgiving was designed to be used in a goose.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  11. Oh, this sounds delish. We always brine our turkey, so that step seems natural. Love the pics of Mochie and that your mom writes in her cookbooks. I love the personal notes from my grandmother in her recipe box!

  12. Terry, duck is one of my favorites. I have trouble finding it around here without an added solution, and I always feel like I can taste the solution they put in it, so I don't make it much anymore.

    Jenn, we ought to spread the word to write personal notes on recipes. Everyone cherishes them!

    ~ Krista

  13. not a fan of goose, so our traditional German Christmas dinner is rouladen - beef roll-ups, but different than the American ones. Start with a sandwich steak thin piece of top round, about 8 inches long. spread horseradish mustard on it, then add salt and pepper, minced onion, diced dill pickle, and chopped raw bacon. roll up and skewer with toothpick. make several, place them in a roasting pan, add water to halfway up meat rools, and bake at 350 for 1 1/2 hours. excellent flavor (and great gravy, too!)