Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!



E wakes up early every morning. Christmas, then, means she's up around 5, usually milling around the house, checking every clock to see if she can't find ONE that has apparently stopped overnight. ONE that shows the true time. SURELY it can't be JUST 5 a.m.! Yet it's dark outside, everyone (including Little Sister V and the kitten) is still asleep. So she settles down again. Fifteen minutes later, she's up and milling about, finally settling back in bed with a book and her flashlight 'til first light. Then, all bets are off. She wakes us first, then attempts to awake her Little Sis who, even on Christmas Morning, isn't exactly bright and shiny first thing in the morning.

While the girls worked on their stockings, we prepared our traditional collection of crackers, meats and cheeses on a cutting board for everyone to graze through at their whim. Gift unwrapping, often punctuated by long pauses to play with new items, took over the rest of the morning.

Usually, my family has a full turkey dinner on Christmas Day. Turkey with all the trimmings is MY favorite meal, so one of my moms used to make it for me for my summer birthday as well. Far be it from me to skip an opportunity to roast the big bird. But Mr. B's family tradition involves ham, and this year the girls and I spotted GOOSE at our local supermarket. It was organic, free range goose, too. It called to me from the depths of the freezer section - TRY ME! You can do it! So, I opted to give it a whirl, with a small ham, too, "just in case."

Talk to anyone about cooking a goose and you're likely to get any of the same reactions I did:
"WHY?!"
"EW! It's so GREASY."
"It's too gamy."

I'd had duck on two occasions - once homemade in France (what an excellent memory - thank you Mme. Nadeua of Lyon!); once in a restaurant that knew its stuff and charged accordingly. Having never had greasy or gamy or bad duck, I figured goose couldn't be too far off. Plus, we had company coming - all the California grandparents. What better way to try a new recipe than to experiment on company, right?! (OH, what would Julia Child say!?)

I combed the Internet for recipes and cooking tips, and combined what I learned into the day's cooking adventure. (Here's one of my favorites.) First, and probably most importantly, I roasted it on a rack so it was raised ABOVE the fat that did, indeed, practically pour off the bird. Second, and another very important tip, I scored the skin so the fat that grows plentifully between the muscle and the skin could escape the bird. Here are the other steps I followed:

Clean bird - remove giblets and neck from inside, pull out as much fat as you can by hand - it's really lose and easy to spot and pull - rinse the bird under cold, running water.

Score skin - particularly in very fatty areas which, on a goose, are surprisingly similar to the fatty areas on most people: the thighs, the chest, and just under the wings.

Stuff lightly - I don't particularly enjoy bread stuffing, so I went with the aromatic stuffing designed to help cut the fat - one lemon, one onion, two small apples all chunked up, plus some ginger.

Salt and Pepper - to taste - just a sprinkle of salt for me, and a few turns of the pepper grinder.

In the roasting pan, sear the skin - This is supposed to give it a bit of browning, and seal the skin. I don't really understand "sealing" it since we WANT the fat to come out. But I DO understand browning.

Roast, breast DOWN, for 45 minutes in oven preheated to 425 degrees.

Turn the bird - breast up and continue cooking at reduced temperature (325) for about 2 more hours ('til meat thermometer inserted to deepest part of thigh - and not touching the bone - reads 170-180). I found differing opinions on the roasting temperature varying from 160 to 190, so opted for this middle road and stopped ours at 175. I'd say it may have been slightly overcooked at that point.)

Remove and let rest at least 20 minutes before slicing. Sure as shootin', this DID allow the juices to spread throughout the bird rather than just run out as I sliced.

Served with ample sides (green beans, was beans, Grandma's butternut squash, mashed potatoes, gravy, cornbread muffins, Brussels sprouts and homemade cranberry relish ala Auntie M, plus the spiral-cut, honey ham) it made for a beautiful meal with great company who played along.

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