Lea Wait, here.
My husband Bob and I live far from daughters, brothers, and sisters, so we spend our holidays cozily together in Maine, dependant on telephone calls, Skype visits, and email to tie us to family and friends. We’ve developed our own way of celebrating.
We both love cooking. And eating. (No doubt too much the second.) And careers as an artist and a writer aren’t exercise conducive. So after the holidays, each year we become Spartan, and we diet. Atkins, usually, and usually for several months.
But before that, we have one last adventurous meal.
Last Christmas, we discussed our options for several weeks. (The decision is, of course, at least half the fun, especially if made while sipping wine and lingering over an assortment of tempting cookbooks.)
And last year we decided to cook a goose.
Neither of us had ever done that before. And, after all, Christmas goose is traditional. Dickens, among other authorities, says so.
We knew just where such a perfect fowl could be obtained. On a small hill on Route 90 (also known as Camden Road) in Warren sits an enticing shop called Curtis Custom Meats. Although Curtis specializes in cuts of beef, lamb and pork (perhaps plebian elsewhere, but not here, where they raise and butcher their own), Curtis Meats is also the place for obtaining chicken, turkey, quail, and duck. Goose? But of course.
I was doing a signing in Camden, so I was the one appointed to pick out our goose. That day they had half a dozen. I’d never bought a goose, so I was a bit dismayed by two facts. First, geese are much longer and skinnier than the turkeys and chickens I was used to cooking. Second, they are MUCH more expensive. (Think $50 instead of $12 for a similarly sized turkey.) I’ll admit I almost chickened out right then. (ouch)
But we’d decided on goose, so goose it was.
I choose one and he (she?) came home with me.
The next step was pouring through cookbooks again. How to cook our goose?
Perhaps overly influenced by several viewings of Julie and Julia, we decided Julia Child would be our authority. She informed us we would first need to steam our duck in a covered roaster to render the fat.
We did not own a covered roaster.
So the weekend before the big “cooking of the goose” we headed out for one of the most complete kitchen supply stores we knew of in Maine — The Well Tempered Kitchen (http://www.welltemperedkitchen.com) in Waldoboro. The owner kindly told us covered roasters hadn’t been made in perhaps thirty years. “But,” we explained, “Julia said!” “You could use foil,” she suggested. Several other helpful customers chimed in with similar suggestions.
“Have any of you ever cooked a goose?” we asked. No one had.
In lieu of options, we decided foil would have to do, although it didn’t fit Julia’s strict instruction for a “tight cover.” Her next command was titled, “Surgery.” I won’t bore you with details other than to confirm that, yes, a goose contains a great deal of fat. I felt as though I’d applied about twenty layers of suet to every part of my body that came near that bird. Surgery was followed by Seasoning. Trussing. Steaming. Braising. Roasting. And, finally – Browning. Gravy and Carving finally followed.
The entire process took longer than Julia suggested, and required a great deal of checking along the way (which probably lengthened the cooking time, since we did more than the usual oven peeking and temperature taking.)
Julia also decreed that the only acceptable stuffing for a goose had to include prunes, so we made her prune and apple stuffing with sausage. We had our doubts about it in theory. But it turned out rich and spectacular.
Results? The goose was good, but, we sadly decided, for us not really worth the time and money we’d spent on it. (That stuffing was fantastic, though!) We saved the goose fat and liver for other experiments, other days, so considered those bonuses.
And – we do recommend goose for the holidays. Or – for one holiday, anyway! It was fun.
This year we’re having filet mignon (from Curtis Meats) smothered in mushrooms and a goose liver and port pate´. (Hmmm …. wonder where that liver came from ???!) Served with champagne, of course. (We believe champage goes with everything. We’re very flexible when it comes to champagne.)
I still have my mother’s covered graniteware roaster tucked in the back of a closet somewhere. I’ll bet it you’d put out the word, a dozen vintage roasters might have come to roost on your doorstep.
Never cooked a goose, but once, as a child, some departing summer people (people from AWAY) were leaving and gave us their pet ducks, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. As I recall, they were delicious.
I’ll be right beside you guys, in spirit, as Dr. Atkins flogs me through January. I’m already so off track from all the little nibbles this season. There seems to have been a renaissance of puff pastry.
Mmmm . Puff pastry. Bob and I just got back from a foray to Trader Joe’s in Portland where I hoped to find Lady Fingers …. and did! Some day there’s a trifle in our future. At the moment there are Lady Fingers in our freezer. This is a very dangerous time of year! And … did you ever tell those summer neighborsd what happened to their pets???!
Lea, I read your article with special interest because I too decided I had to have goose for Christmas, but in my case, it was Christmas Eve of 2009. Like you I read lots of recipes, but I decided to take the easy way out and have a nearby gourmet grocery “cook my goose.” It was a real bargain at $45.00. They did it in orange sauce, and it was good, but I really prefer turkey. I do now have a covered roaster, from an estate sale. It’s one of those blue speckled types, and I do my turkeys and pork loins in it. If you decide to have goose again, come to KY. I saw a fresh goose at the farmer’s market for $36.00.
We LOVE the Well-Tempered Kitchen, too.
This reminds me of when Bill decided we would have a “heirloom” turkey which he contracted for at a farm just across the Massachusetts border in New York. Then we decided, let’s make a weekend of it and stay at the Red Lion Inn, and made all sorts of reservations including one at their fancy restaurant. Then we got half way there and realized we’d left our hanging clothes–ie everything dressy, at home, so we stopped at a mall and bought new clothes.
The turkey farm was a terrifying place, decorated with freshly-killed deer which appeared to be well over the guy’s limit. Bill picked up the bird while a some kind of turkey the size of an ostrich kept me pinned in the car. (And anyone who doesn’t believe birds are descended from dinosaurs has never seen this thing.)
All and all the bird was good and the weekend was wonderful, but we agreed it wasn’t worth the $1500 it cost for the hotel, dinners and new clothes and never did it again.
Oh–and like Kate, I have my mother’s covered roaster. When she moved from her big house to the over 55 community, all-on-one-floor place she’s in now, somehow, I just couldn’t let it go.
Clearly my mom was ill-equipped! She left a lot of pots and pans of various sizes … but no covered roaster. Next summer … to the flea markets I will hie!
Wow! $1500! Bob & I spent a lot on a New Year’s Eve dinner in Quebec once (stay tuned for my blog New Year’s Ev e) — but nowhere near that amount! My goose is beginning to feel like a bargain!
Honestly, I thought everyone had a covered roaster from their grandmother/mother/aunt tucked away somewhere. I’m surprised they aren’t made anymore. What do they sell instead?
I made goose for Christmas one year when I was still in my experimental holiday meal stage. I cooked it according to the directions in the Joy of Cooking cookbook, so the process wasn’t nearly as elaborate as Julia Child’s. (Although I recall the rending taking forever.) It was…okay. Tasty enough. But the leftovers were limp and greasy and couldn’t be used in the myriad ways turkey or chicken leftovers can be. I suddenly understood why Turkey replaced goose as the predominate holiday meal in Victorian England.
We had a goose once that my father shot and I do remember it being tasty. Our tradition has always been roast beef with Yorkshire puddings. But this year, we’re having turkey. My husband made his first one at Thanksgiving, with apricot-orange glaze, and it was FANTASTIC. I quickly put in my order for Christmas.
My middle son, just back from Shanghai, has been telling us about the unbelievable duck he ate in China. Other things he was not a fan of, but the duck, he says, was delicious.
that last reply was me, Vicki — thought it would show my name. Sorry for any confusion!
I’m getting hungry just reading all these posts! Hmmm … A Maine Crime Writers’ banquet … Vicki, you make sushi, too, right???!
Thanks for this!!!! I always wanted to know more about cooking a goose — ever since I learned that that was what my paternal great-great-grandmother always served on holidays. My cooking may end up being vicarious — through reading your tale.
I had no idea our roaster was so precious! Hope people do send you at least one.