"I guess my thermometer for my baseball fever is still a goose bump." Vin Scully
Roast turkey is arguably the most popular holiday roast in America. After all, these big birds are native to North America and Mexico. In the rest of the world, however, roast goose is more traditional on holiday tables. The Egyptians, Vikings, Greeks, Romans, and eventually the French, Germans, and British all served roast goose during end-of-year harvests and winter solstice celebrations. Even in Charles Dickens' classic holiday story, A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the rest of the Cratchit family celebrate Christmas with a feast of roast goose.
For a grand feast this holiday, try grill roasting a whole goose instead of a turkey. You can find goose at farmers' markets and well-stocked grocery stores. Most domesticated geese are descended from the European Graylag or the Asian Swan goose. Embden and Toulouse are the two most popular breeds, both of which yield dark, flavorful meat. Geese don't take kindly to confinment, so even domesticated geese are raised free-frange and eat mostly grass, although some may be finished with a little grain to fatten them up.
Goose has a slightly lower meat-to-carcass ratio than turkey, but goose has more flavor. It's also much fattier. Migratory water birds like geese evolved to store large amounts of fat under their skin as insulation from cold water and for fuel during long-distance flights. To keep the skin from staying flabby during roasting, it's important to render the excess fat. Just prick the skin all over to give the fat some escape routes and cook the bird slowly so the copious amount of fat has time to melt and drip away. A mature 15 pound goose can render a quart or more of golden fat! Goose fat makes a fantastic fat for frying potatoes and other vegetables. Once it's rendered, save the goose fat and freeze it for later. Keep in mind that goose fat liquefies at a lower temperature than duck fat (about 111°F vs. 126°F for duck fat).
For this recipe, look for a young goose (less than 10 pounds). Young birds have more tender meat and not quite as much fat to get rid of. Even so, this dish balances the natural fattiness of goose with an acidic stuffing of cured sauerkraut, which in turn benefits from the infusion of the goose drippings it receives during roasting. The goose is boned out so you can easily carve it at the table (see the sidebar for boning directions). The leg bones are left in, so it still makes a nice presentation on the holiday table.
This recipe is reprinted with permission from Fire It Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim. This book is full of recipes for grilling unusual meats like goat, bison, elk, venison, goose, and ostrich.
Recipe: Grill Roasted Young Goose Stuffed with Sauerkraut and Apples
Makes. 8 servings.
Takes. About 12 hours to brine. About 1 hour for other prep. About 1 1/4 hours to grill roast.
Molasses Beer Brine
1 1/2 cups dark beer
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup molasses
Goose and Stuffing
1 young goose (about 8 pounds), washed and patted dry and carcass and thigh bones removed (see sidebar)
3 strips bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large onions, chopped
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1 pound refrigerated sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon molasses
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
1) Prep. For the brine: Mix everything together in a jumbo (2-gallon) zipper-lock bag.
2) For the goose and stuffing: Add the goose to the brine, squeeze the air out of the bag, and seal the bag. Refrigerate for about 12 hours in a roasting pan to catch any potential leaks.
3) Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until the bottom of the pan is covered with fat and the bacon is still soft. Add the onions and toss in the bacon fat. Cover the pan and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the apples and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sauerkraut, rosemary, molasses, salt, and pepper. Set aside to cool.
4) Fire up. Light a grill for 2-zone cooking and shoot for about 325°F in the indirect zone.
5) Remove the goose from the brine and pat dry. Prick the skin all over with the tip of a sharp knife, taking care to pierce only the skin and not the meat. Pricking the skin helps render fat from underneath so the skin gets crispy instead of remaining flabby. Fill the cavity of the goose with the sauerkraut. Skewer the cavity closed and tie the legs of the goose together with twine. Put on a roasting rack set in a disposable roasting pan.
6) Cook. Put the pan on the grill on the indirect side. Put the lid down and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inside of a thigh registers 165°F, about 1 1/4 hours, basting the goose with drippings every 10 minutes after the first half hour.
7) Serve. Transfer to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Remove the twine and scoop the sauerkraut into a serving bowl. Carve the goose as you would a turkey and serve with the sauerkraut.