Gooseneck Revisited

Better Late than Never Goose Gravy

I wasn’t going to share this with you before successfully executing it twice, but after slamming it right out of the polo field on Christmas, I’m going to introduce you to one of the most wealthy-tasting sauces you’ve ever experienced. Mr. S noted the absence of fruit from the goose gravy recipe after the introductory post. When Mr. S gives you a note, you would be well advised to read heavily into it. So I began digging, and found an encouraging recipe on epicurious for Roast Goose with Oranges and Madeira. My only knowledge of this Portuguese wine is that everyone’s out of it at Christmas. So, I substituted a Cabernet Sauvignon in the first round, which yielded a wincingly acidic and tart sauce. For the big day, I used a Port, and the resulting sauce was so enchanting that I doubt I’ll ever try with the elusive Madeira. I won’t include goose preparation in this entry, as I stuck to these directions. I don’t know how goose neck wound up being the most magical ingredient ever, but I do not suggest attempting this with any other gullet. I’ve altered the epicurean recipe slightly, since I stuffed my goose with pork stuffing instead of shallots and oranges. Otherwise, this would be embarrassingly redundant.

1 goose neck
3 shallots, sliced into thin rings
1 1/2 C + 1/3 C + 2 tbsp Port
1 small orange, peeled and sectioned
4 C low-sodium chicken broth
1 C freshly-squeezed orange juice (do it!)
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cornstarch
salt and pepper

In a medium pan, heat the butter over medium-high until frothing subsides, then throw in the neck. You want to cook it for 5 minutes, and turn it once halfway through; otherwise, don’t touch. Ding! Leave the neck in the pan and throw in the shallots, saute for a few minutes until they’re tender. Add 1 1/2 C Port and the orange sections, and boil it down to 1/3 what you started with. Then add the chicken stock and orange juice and boil it for about 45 minutes to end up with 2 C of stock. Pour it through a strainer into a medium bowl, wrap it up, and stick it in the fridge until a few minutes before your goose is cooked.

Pour the stock into a medium saucepan about 5 minutes before you’re ready to take the bird out of the oven and set it over low heat. Once you relocate the goose, put the roasting pan (fat poured off) on a burner set to low heat, and pour in 1/3 C Port. Stir it over the entire pan and scrape up any sticky bits, then add the contents of the roasting pan to the stock. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 2 tbsp of Port, then pour that into the saucepan and give it a good whip. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in 2 tbsp honey. Taste and adjust accordingly, then simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency; I gave mine 5 minutes.

A word to the wise: this sauce is extremely mauve, which is a lovely color given the right background. When selecting your tableware, try to stick with whites or eggshells; a bolder colored plate could result in a presentation misinterpreted as a dare.

I didn’t mean so fresh that it argues…

Billy the Kid, the lovely and charitable Mrs. S, and I went to pick up the goose today at Antonelli’s on Federal Hill in Providence. A Christmasy nip was chapping faces, so my mother and BK waited in the car while I very nearly ran to the tiny market, and opened the door to find the thin strip of floor space in front of the counter crammed full of people. As soon as the door closed behind me, I was in the middle of New Year’s Eve in Times Square. I asked the woman with whom I was practically dirty dancing to point me toward the back of the line, and she directed her young son to explain the process to me. I was to take a number and wait in line. Everyone was in line. I heard loud chatting in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and had a moment of tilde shame before plodding on.

Having called weeks in advance to order the bird, I assumed there must be a VIP area and walked toward the rear of the shop, where I could make out bright lights and several figures behind a plastic curtain. As I stepped in, the closest twenty heads turned to me briefly, and the gleam in everyone’s eyes struck me as odd, as did the thick, pungent odor that took a moment to punch me in the neck. As bodies shifted and my line of sight cleared, I noticed several hundred various live chickens, turkeys and geese stacked up in a tower of wire cages like something from Brazil, as well as a great deal of attention being paid to a point just beyond.

Since I was obviously not in the preorder area, I exited before getting hooked on the show; I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stare my dinner in the eye. Back in the featherless area, I realized as I glanced around for a clerk that my intent on circumnavigating the queue was garnering some nasty looks from the hoard. So I went outside and got my mom. Billy the Kid and I hung by the exit as my mother marched up to the register, spoke quietly with the cashier, and then returned with one twelve-pound goose, freshly cleaned and butchered.

Mrs. Get-the-Job-Done Smith somehow manages to find time for a career while routinely coming to the rescue of my immediate family, and I plan to do my part in making that easier for her by eventually moving back to RI. Several of the more memorable anecdotes starring my mother’s archangelic efficiency involve single-handedly (literally) stopping her Saturn wagon from rolling down a driveway with my brother in the back while appearing totally unphased; shaming my high school into running AP French in my senior year even though I was the only student; and a short-lived but terrifying policy under which shoes left out were considered trash and thrown away.

So, thank you Mrs. S, for making our Christmas feast possible, and now let the performance anxiety nightmares of burnt goose begin.

A Do-What-I-Say Christmas: getting comfortable with geese

What a Lot of Effort Goose and Gravy

As Mr. Smith frequently reminds us, one should never try out a new recipe on guests. Even if it comes from a trusted source, you simply cannot be completely confident until you’ve successfully executed it at least once, and that confidence makes the difference between fair and spectacular. You don’t need to hold a dress rehearsal for the entire Christmas feast, but you should make each item on the menu over the course of the next month, noting any differences in cooking time (especially if you have an electric stove).

1 small, frozen goose
1/2 recipe pork stuffing
1 large can chicken stock
3 tbsp flour
salt and pepper

For your test goose, get a small, frozen bird, and let it defrost overnight in the fridge, taking it out early the next morning to finish the melt at room temperature. Once thawed, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the neck and organ bag from the goose, and toss. Remove any fat “pods” from the cavities (they pull right off), and discard. Pull back the skin from the neck cavity and locate the wishbone. Cut around it until you can remove it easily, and get rid of it. Cut the tips off the wings.

Wash the goose with cold water, inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels. Prick the skin all over with a sharp knife, but don’t pierce the meat. Stick the goose into the boiling water, neck down, and cook for 1 minute. Flip it over and cook for another minute (half the bird will be sticking out of the pot the whole time). Remove it from the water, drain, and pat it dry with paper towels, inside and out. Put it on a cookie sheet and refrigerate it uncovered overnight, letting the skin dry out. Start Phase I of the pork stuffing, but halve the recipe for now.

Set your oven to 325. Finish making the pork stuffing, and pack up the goose. Set it on a wire rack over a roasting pan, insert a meat thermometer into one of the breasts (don’t let it touch the bone), and roast until the internal temperature reaches 170, basting with the drippings every 30 minutes. Depending on size, it will take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours. Let the goose stand outside of the oven for at least 15 minutes, about the time it will take you to make the gravy if you focus. Any extra stuffing should be put in the oven for the last half hour on the goose clock, then combined with the bird-in stuffing before serving.

Pour the drippings from the pan into a large glass measuring cup and let the liquid stand for two minutes. Use a bulb baster to separate the fat on top from the drippings on the bottom. Add enough water or chicken stock to the drippings to make 2 C of liquid. Heat 3 tbsp of the fat in the pan over a burner set to medium-high, and whisk in 3 tbsp flour. Let the roux cook for 1 minute, then slowly pour in the stock while whisking vigorously. Once the gravy is smooth and even, season with salt and pepper and transfer to a boat.

If you’ve done exactly as directed, you should be ready to sit down to a delicious preview of the main event. Otherwise, make it again, and try to do what I say this time.

A Do-What-I-Say Christmas: Introduction

Now that all of your silver has been washed, polished and packed up after another successful Thanksgiving meal, it’s time to plan your Christmas feast. This year I’ll be roasting a goose; my perfect turkey record is beginning to make me smug, so I’m looking for a brand new challenge. The preliminary list of sides includes pork stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, Waldorf salad, twice-baked mini potatoes with truffle oil, and green beans with garlic butter and almonds, all of which will be preceded by a hot hors d’oeuvre of Swiss chard and gruyère mini-quiches. The pie will be apple, but instead of the lone Gala or Braeburn, I’ll throw in a single, finely chopped pear, balanced with a little extra salt and spice.

If you find the above menu as brilliant as I do, I’ll be posting the steps you’ll want to take over the course of the next month, under the heading “a do-what-I-say Christmas.” A month is the perfect amount of time to design and execute a holiday dinner, whether you’re planning for your entire extended family or just you and your special friend. Go ahead and infer whatever you want from “special.”

In fact, the first task is already at hand; it’s time to order the goose, as you’ll of course want to use fresh, not frozen. I always pre-order meat in person, and I dress for the occasion, just as I would for air travel, a dentist appointment, or a bank heist: a-line skirt, sweater set, pearls, tights. When it comes to securing the best from your butcher, it’s all about teeth and tits.

A 12-pound goose feeds four to six average diners, and that’s the biggest you want to go. You may be tempted to overestimate the amount of meat on your bird once she arrives – don’t. She’s just big-boned. Size corresponds to age with geese, and they don’t wear their years well, so if you plan to host more than six, make a turkey or figure out how to cook two geese in one oven. If you have a double-oven, congratulations. You’ve made it.

For anyone who’s in, check back at least weekly to stay abreast of new assignments (or follow on the Twitter @maryspena, thanks to Mr. P) and rest assured that if you do what I say, your Christmas dinner will raise your culinary acclaim to a whole nubba lebba.

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