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.

Mr. Smith gets on board.

Gravy Kriegel au Vin

As a child, if I saw a roast beef come in with the Sunday morning groceries, I’d be beside myself for the rest of the day. “Kind of like having dessert during the meal,” my father shares the recipe for my favorite gravy, “created by a late mathematics graduate named John Kriegel, whose medical challenges apparently did not include diabetes.” I’ll give you the ingredients list verbatim, and leave you to your own interpretations of “some” and “maybe.”

2 C water
some ketchup
some brown sugar
2 cubes beef bouillon
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
some seasoned salt (Lowry’s, e.g.)
some thyme (ground or leaves)
some burgundy wine
maybe some soy sauce
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp Crisco

This is a two-parter, the first of which is stock preparation. Put the water into a large cast iron skillet. Pour enough ketchup from the bottle into the middle of the water to form a 4-in circle. Drop some (2 to 3 tbsp) brown sugar on top of the ketchup, then drop 2 beef bouillon cubes onto the sugar. Add about a tbsp of Worcestershire and sprinkle liberally with seasoned salt. Add about 1/2 tsp of thyme, pour in 1/4 C or so of burgundy, and set the pan over high heat. Stir well and bring to a boil. My father advises that you taste and adjust the stock as it cooks, and “if the taste is disorganized, add some soy sauce several squirts at a time as a tightener.” Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, “until a red/brown scum forms on top. Don’t remove scum.” Turn off the heat and pour the liquid into a large measuring cup or bowl.

Onto making the gravy. Using the same pan, heat 2 tbsp shortening over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp flour and mix with the oil to form a roux. Don’t let the roux pass from tan to dark brown or you’ll need to start over. Lower the heat, wait one minute, then add the gravy liquid, 1/2 C at a time, stirring with each addition until completely incorporated into “a thin mud-like mixture.” Add enough liquid to make the gravy slightly thinner than the final desired consistency. Keep the gravy warm until you’re ready to transfer to a boat; whisk the skin that forms on top back in before serving. If it becomes too thick, add a little water and stir, and if it’s thin, simmer until it thickens.

D. Smith always makes a flawless Yorkshire pudding to accompany the gravy and roast beef (perhaps a future entry), and a green vegetable should find some space on the table for show and contrast. D, originally from Falmouth, Maine, is an intrepid database tsar, former military linguist, and versatile self-taught cook. A cast-iron die-hard, my father would like to remind us all of the most important ingredient in whatever we’re cooking: heat. Yes, even more than butter.

If you made bread out of meat, you wouldn’t need sandwiches.

Fortified Meat Loaf

About once a month, my body sounds the scurvy warning, necessitating consumption of green vegetable. “But what about the children?” you might worry. No need, as vegetable is the one food group that Billy the Kid seldom sends back to the kitchen, and he gets some with two meals every day. He distrusts sandwiches, automatically vetoes red sauce, and becomes livid upon discovery of other than potato inside a battered and fried stick, but he’ll put away a bowl of canned peas like nobody’s business. So put the phone down, we don’t need to involve the state. Ground chuck is the Borg of the food universe, incorporating unsuspecting ingredients into its mass, extracting any useful flavors, and overwhelming the rest with its relentlessly rich beefiness. Please note that I am not a huge Star Trek fan, I just admire the stoic hustle with which the Borg implements its business plan.

2 C finely chopped onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 finely chopped celery stalk
1 finely chopped carrot
1 finely chopped broccoli stalk, no florets
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2/3 C ketchup (to be used in 1/3 C quantities)
1 1/2 lb ground chuck
3/4 lb ground pork
2 egss, beaten
1/3 C minced fresh parsley
2 tbsp butter

Set your oven to 350. Heat the butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, broccoli and scallion for 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Stir 1/3 C ketchup and the salt and pepper into the pan, and cook for one minute. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl, draining any remaining oil back into the pan. Mix the Worcestershire sauce and eggs into the mixture and combine thoroughly.

If you’re a hypochondriac, now’s the time to grab a fresh pair of polyethylenes. Put the chuck and pork in the bowl and use your hands to mix it up. I use Mr. P’s noise-canceling headphones for this step, as the sound of a baby alien clawing it’s way out of someone’s midsection makes me gag. Once it’s ready, pack it into a standard glass or metal loaf pan, brush the remaining 1/3 C ketchup onto the top, and sprinkle with parsley. Bake it for an hour, and use a meat thermometer to check that the center has reached 160. You’ve got pork and eggs in there, let’s not play with fire.

I’ll admit to making gravy from a McCormick packet for this one. You’re not left with any drippings in the cooking process, so you really don’t have much of a choice. But instead of adding water directly to the powder, heat 2 tbsp of butter in a pan over medium heat and once the foaming subsides, stir in the powder to form a roux. Then add the water slowly, stirring constantly to maintain an even, lumpless consistency. Let the finished gravy simmer over low for ten minutes to thicken completely.

%d bloggers like this: