Bruce "Tog" Tognazzini.               

Ask Tog, December, 1998

Christmas Goose

This isn't so much a recipe as it is a suggestion. Somehow in the USA, we've become fixated on the turkey as not only the bird of choice for Thanksgiving, which at least has some historical precedence, but as the bird of choice for Christmas.

We know for a fact that there weren't a lot of turkeys floating (or walking) around Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Nor were there a lot floating around Europe, where the Christmas tradition began. Our turkey tradition in the USA only goes back as far as the founding of the National Turkey Growers Association, "dedicated to the preservation and promulgation of dry, tasteless fowl for the masses."

This year, why not join a real tradition, and cook up that succulent bird enjoyed by Scrooge after his triple-conversion, namely a fine Christmas goose?

Geese are not difficult to cook. Just pierce them with around a million holes to let the goose grease out, then cook them in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes per pound. Not ony will you get a wonderful taste treat out of it, but you won't have to buy lamp oil for at least a month.

I prefer to start out with a 500 degree oven for the first 15 minutes, to really render the bird and get a nice, crusty skin. If you do this, chop around 10 minutes off the total cooking time.

Consult your favorite cookbook for particulars, and cook the stuffing separately, so it doesn't absorb the fat. This also allows you to stuff the cavity with a variety of objects found around the house, such as onions, celery, apples, oranges, and the occasion toy. (Hey, Mom, Susie hid my baseball!)

Goose has a discernable flavor, as opposed to turkey, but it is not gamy or overwhelming. Properly cooked, it ends up lean. Kids will eat it and ask for more.

Give it a try, even if it is a little scary to break tradition. And remember, you only have to break it once: Next year, you'll be serving what has now become your traditional Christmas goose.

And a reader response:

Dear Tog,

I fully support your campaign for goose at Christmas. Just a couple of minor amendments/suggestions:

Put the goose on a trivet or a rack. This drains off the fat better and gives a leaner result. Goose has so much fat that if you keep it basted it is in no danger of drying out. If you get an older goose there is a much higher ratio of meat to bone. You can go to about 12-14 pounds and still have it young enough to be tender and tasty.

I was appalled by your implied suggestion that goose fat should be used as lamp oil. Apart from its highly saturated artery hardening properties, goose fat cooks things like nothing else on earth. My favourite day-after-Christmas breakfast is a grilled slab of ham and eggs fried in goose fat.

Chris Barrett

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