Lea Wait, here, preparing for the first Christmas in years when several of my daughters will be here in Maine. That’s good, and a reminder of years when they were growing up and I prepared for Christmas all year. But it’s also a sad reminder that this year Bob won’t be here to share the holiday. A time for memories. So today I decided to share a post I wrote several years ago.
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 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 champagne goes with everything. We’re very flexible when it comes to champagne.)
Oh, Lea, to be a fly on your kitchen wall last year, watching you and Bob cooking that goose. What a great story. My favorite line of this post: “I felt as though I’d applied about twenty layers of suet to every part of my body that came near that bird.” So evocative. Makes me want to take a looooong, hot shower.
I’m glad your daughters will be home for Christmas this year. The menu sounds divine.
Great memories! You can be sure that Bob will be there with you all in spirit. Merry Christmas to you and your family
Thank you, both! And Happy Holidays!
Reminded me of my great aunt, Sylvia, who always had a goose for Christmas. I don’t know if I every had any but it seemed exotic enough to be festive. Enjoy your time with your daughters,.
I will say no goose for us, we usually have upwards of 30 people at Thanksgiving (not Christmas) but I just looked up that stuffing recipe and will have to try it as stuffing is the best part of the meal to me.
Enjoy your family this Christmas.
I’ve never cooked a goose, but I love roasted duck. There is not a lot of meat on one, so it’s necessary to have plenty of sides. Nothing better than that crispy, crackling skin!