Henri’s goose gets cooked

Henri has a different recipe for a goose festival

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

Henri was thrilled in early January when he learned about the Snow Goose Festival to be held later in the month. He imagined how the different restaurants in town would participate. The Red Tavern would surely whip up something divine with local greens and herbs, maybe fresh chantrelles. Tres Hombres would serve goose tacos or fajitas. And 33 Steaks, Booze & Jazz would pair it with a special martini, developed just for the occasion. I could hardly wait.

Alas, none of this was to be. It turned out the Snow Goose Festival had nothing whatsoever to do with eating goose, but with looking at them. Alive. In “nature.” Not only that, but you had to drive out into the cold and the wet and the wilderness to look at them! Excusez-moi, but that is not Henri’s idea of a festival! Festivals are for feasting!

Hellooo … ? Festival … feast. Can you say, “Same Latin root?”

So Henri headed down to the Butcher Shop and picked up a frozen 9-pounder and had his own private goose festival, merci beaucoups. Starting with a preheated oven and a delightful little Pinot Noir.

Cooking a goose is much like cooking any fowl, although with domestic goose, there’s one key difference: You have to poke holes in the skin and then pre-cook it for 45 minutes to one hour to drain the fat. Wild geese, on the other hand, aren’t as fatty and don’t need to be drained. They stay slim by getting all that exercise, flying hither and yon—as Dr. Epinards s0 savagely pointed out.

Henri’s Cabbage-stuffed Goose

1 goose, 9-11 lbs.
1 small head of green cabbage
1 apple (tart)
1 lemon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup vermouth
1 cinnamon stick

For the stuffing: Shred cabbage and steam to cook, dice the apples, zest the lemon, break the cinnamon stick in half and mix in large bowl with the cranberries, vermouth and cinnamon, keeping in mind Henri’s No. 1 rule of cooking: Feel free to be creative. The cinnamon stick was a last-minute addition that occurred to me when I saw it in the cabinet beside the box of salt. Tres bon!

Preheat oven to 375. Remove giblets from cavity, and season generously inside and out with Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper. With carving fork (or wooden skewer, corn-cob holder, etc.), poke a couple of dozen holes in the skin, particularly at fatty areas (breasts and thighs), careful not to pierce the meat. Remove the wing tips.

Place the goose on rack in a roasting pan, and cook for 45 minutes to one hour, allowing fat to drain from holes in the skin. Remove from oven, pour fat into jar or tub, and allow goose to cool slightly.

Stuff cavity with cabbage mix and return to slightly cooler oven (350), tented with aluminum foil—which you will remove during the last half hour of cooking. Be sure goose is elevated from floor of pan on a rack as it will continue to drain fat. Cook about 20 minutes a pound (including the “pre-cooking"), or until drumsticks separate easily. Remove from oven and allow to cool before carving.

Goose meat is robust and all dark and is delicious, plain or dressed with chutneys or fruit salsas. For side dishes, Henri likes mushrooms in wild rice (Lundberg blend), cooked with lots of butter, and a mixed-green salad with pine nuts and tangerine or mandarin sections. For a vegetable dish, try steamed asparagus and sliced yellow and orange bell peppers, dressed with a dash of balsamic vinegar.

The best wine to pair with goose is a Pinot Noir, although Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Gewurztraminers and Rieslings also work well.

Note: Mon ami, Monsier Deni, says the best part about cooking a goose is that you end up with all that fat that can be used later for cooking.

(Whole frozen geese are available at the Butcher Shop at S & S Produce in Chico for just under $5 per pound. You can order naturally raised geese from www.igourmet.com (877-igourmet). For more information on cooking or buying goose visit www.foodreference.com/html/artgoose.html or www.samcooks.com/flavor/ChristmasGoose.htm.)