Turkey can go forth and multiply.
There goes half the readers of this blog.
I guess I shouldn’t make such a brash statement without backing it up with at least a modicum of fact. Well, perhaps not fact, but my views on that rather large, rather disappointing bird…
I have cooked a fair few turkeys in my time. I have roasted them straight. I have wet brined, dry brined them. I have stuffed them. Cooked both large and small ones. Some techniques do yield better results than others, but it is still a pretty darn bland white meat. The legs are better of course, but those normally get fought over so much I just say “what the heck” and let others battle it out. Gravy makes things better, but if you ask me (I know you didn’t..) if you have to smother something in gravy to make it decent, the starting product should be seriously contested.
To make things worse it seems like my extended family every year demand a ridiculously big turkey because they want left overs. Cooking a huge turkey in a tiny oven is a silly idea to start with, and every year brings new heights of imagination to me as I try and work out how to cook everything in that small oven.
This year the turkey finished it’s cooking on the BBQ so I could roast some veg in that little oven. That was actually a very good thing. The BBQ added an extra layer of flavor that was quite palatable.
In my mind there are solutions to the bland turkey however:
Brining does certainly help. The wet brine method is a complete pain in the arse, and normally ends up with a rather wet fridge. Drine brine is another option.
Another solution is to buy a heritage turkey from a small local farm. I did this last year, the turkey was actually pretty great. It was small, and rather bloody skinny (thankfully we were only feeding 8 that year) because apparently it flew a lot.. But I do have to say that its flavor was far superior to any turkey you will find at the supermarket, even an organic turkey from a decent co-op store.
Of course, those bad-boys aren’t cheap – and when you start to talk heritage turkey, you have slapped yourself well and truly into the price range of a fantastic game bird with so much more to offer than even the most poncy of turkey.
For the same money as that skinny flown-a-lot bird you get yourself a nice plump, very, very fat goose. And as we all know, fat means flavor, and fat doesn’t come much better than goose fat.
Oh lordy, goose fat.
So this year I tried my best to convince my fantastic in-laws that a goose should be on our Christmas table, and not that traditional American favorite of the turkey.
I was shot down faster than I ever possibly imagined. Shot down for the following reason, and I qoute: “I don’t like goose. I had one in the freezer for two years, it had freezer burn, but I cooked it anyway. It tasted horrible. I don’t like goose“.
This is quite understandable really. Freezer burnt anything is bad news.
And so it was to be. I would roast a goose before Christmas, invite over the parents-in-law, and hopefully convince them that goose doesn’t taste like crap – and then we can do a Turkey for Christmas. Win-Win for everyone!
I am happy to say my plan succeeded extremely well. A week or so before Christmas I invited some lovely friends of ours, and the parents-in-law over for roast goose. This was actually the first whole goose I have ever roasted myself personally (nothing like pressure of in-laws and a rather talented chef looking over your shoulder..) – I decided to go the route of considering it be just a rather large duck, and roasting it along similar lines.
Now, it would be foolish to write a blog post about roast goose without mentioning a rather large and important by-product of roasting a goose.
The best darn fat known to man. Known to me anyhow. And a goose has buckets of it. Thank the maker, because that stuff is pure gold. When roasting a goose it should be considered illegal not to roast potatoes alongside in the strained goose fat. ILLEGAL people.
So that of course we did. Lots and lots of spuds. Parsnips too, and the last carrots from the garden. I think I might have served all this with a green salad too, but honestly cannot remember because of one thing – goose fat roasted potatoes!!!
Anyhow, what I am really trying to do here is to convince as many people as possible to drop the roast turkey for one year – especially here in the US (since what, you have roast turkey in November AND December), and roast a goose instead. You will be hooked.
I know I am.
I roasted the goose, but removed the lower half of the wings and neck. I had planned on stuffing the neck skin as a sausage, but alas this goose came with its neck without skin. The neck, giblets and wing tips all went into the stock pot, to make a quick stock for a goose au jus.
To help render fat from the goose its skin should be pricked all over, taking care not to puncture the meat. The goose fat should be harvested from the goose roasting pan a couple of times during roasting. The goose needs to be up on a rack, so it doesn’t sit in its own fat.
(thanks to my wonderfully talented and sexy wife for taking the photos)
Roast Goose Recipe, with all the trimmings (serves eight)
1 goose, about 10lb.
sea salt, lots of it. Freshly ground pepper too.
10 yukon gold potatoes
6 medium parsnips
a handful of carrots, plus 1 for the stock
green top of a leek
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch of thyme
5 juniper berries, crushed
1 glass of dry white wine
Preheat oven to 450F
Using a sharp knife remove the lower wing tips at the joint.
Put the neck, giblets, wing tips, bay, thyme, onion, 1 carrot and juniper berries in a saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to the boil. Skim if scum comes to the surface. Reduce heat to simmer, and cook this stock down all the time the goose is roasting.
Peel the potatoes, and cut into bite sized pieces. Par boil until cooked about half way through in lots of water. Drain. Toss potatoes gently to fluff them.
Clean the goose inside and out, removing any giblets in the cavity. Dry well with paper towel. Prick the skin all over with a sharp knife. Sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Trim off any excess fat from around the cavity, and put into a small saucepan.
Tie the goose legs together. Place the goose on a rack in a large roasting pan. Rub a lot of coarse sea salt into the skin of the goose. Roast at 450F for 30 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 350F. Continue roasting for another 90 minutes or so, until the temperature of the goose (when measured between leg and breast) reaches about 180F. Strain off the goose fat that has collected in the roasting pan at least a couple of times during roasting.
Pour this goose fat into the saucepan with the goose fat from around the cavity. Heat over a low stove until all the fat has melted. Strain through a fine sieve.
About 20 minutes before the goose is done, heat a large baking sheet in the oven. Take out the baking sheet, pour onto it a good half cup of the hot goose fat. Toss your potatoes, parsnips and carrots onto this sheet. Make sure these all get covered in the fat. Put the baking sheet back in the oven.
When the goose is cooked, take it out and cover in foil. Leave the vegetables in, and raise the oven temp to 450F. Let these roast for 15 minutes longer, whilst the goose rests. Toss the veg once during cooking, to evenly brown all sides.
Pour out the remaining goose fat from the roasting pan. Heat this pan over a high heat, and deglaze with the white wine. let this bubble away for a few minutes, and add a few of soup ladles of the goose stock. Let this reduce by half to make the au jus. Feel free to add chopped thyme and butter to this if you wish.
Remove the legs and breast from the goose (the shot above is Danny carving the goose). Cut the meat off the legs. Slice the breasts against the grain. Serve with the roasted veg, au jus.