One of the most iconic and celebratory images of the Christmas season must be the traditional English favourite - Roasted Goose. Although turkey has far surpassed goose as Canada's favourite Christmas bird, goose is still the traditional roast for many people of Northern, Central and Eastern European descent, and since Medieval times, has been eaten at winter festivals but especially at Christmas. For lovers of tasty dark meat, nothing quite compares. With visions of having a quintessential old-fashioned Christmas, we served this utterly delicious Madeira-infused dried fruit and citrus-scented Roast Goose last Christmas Eve, and were treated to a classic winter feast. Crisp and golden on the outside, the Roast Goose was beautifully lean with moist dark meat, and full of flavour. Filling the cavity with fruit, not only gives the roasting goose a wonderful flavor and scent, it also makes your kitchen smell divine. Also, carefully pricking the skin is the secret to a beautiful crispy finish.
Although geese can often be found during the Christmas season, we pre-ordered our bird through Whitehouse Meats at the St. Lawrence Market, and also picked up two dozen oysters from Diana's Seafood on Lawrence. Starting with a platter of fresh shucked Kushi and Beausoleil oysters, and a bottle or two of champagne, we then served the Roast Goose with braised red cabbage, brussel sprouts and crispy roast potatoes, finished with a lovely Madeira Peppercorn Sauce — the perfect foil to the rich dark meat. The final coup d'état were individual Molten Chocolate Cakes and Crème Anglaise for pud. With all of the tales we'd heard about geese being very fatty and offering little meat, we couldn't have been more satisfied with our crisp, moist and absolutely delicious Roast Goose. It served our small party of revellers wonderfully well, with lots of leftovers including a litre of prized goose fat!
Roast Christmas Goose
1 cup pitted dried apricots, halved
1 cup pitted dried prunes, halved
1/2 cup Madeira
1 11-13lb Goose
Juice and zest of 1 orange
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and coarsely chopped
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/8 tsp paprika
8 slices of bacon
1 1/4 cups Madeira Peppercorn Sauce
Place the apricots and prunes in a large bowl with the Madeira, and set aside for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Rinse the goose well removing all excess fat. Prick the skin all over with the tines of a fork to help release the fat as the goose cooks. Rub the goose, inside and out, with orange juice. Add the apples and orange zest to the apricots and prunes and toss to combine.
Sprinkle to goose inside and out with salt, pepper and paprika. Stuff the cavity with the fruits and close the opening with poultry skewers. Lay the bacon slices across the breast. Place the goose, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan in the centre of the oven. Roast for 1 1/2 hours, removing the accumulated fat in the pan with a baster every 30 minutes.
Remove the bacon and continue to roast the goose for an additional hour, while continuing to defat the pan. The goose is done when the temperature reads 175°F to 180°F deep in the breast.
Remove the goose from the roasting pan and set the pan aside. Let the goose rest, covered loosely with aluminum foil, for 20 minutes. While it's resting, make the Madeira Peppercorn Sauce.
Serve the goose on a warmed platter and garnish with seasonal holly and berries.
Madeira Peppercorn Sauce
Makes 1 1/4 cups
Pan drippings from roasted goose
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp green peppercorns in brine, drained and lightly crushed
1 tsp cornstarch
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Skim any remaining fat from the roasting pan, saving the prized elixir for future use. Scape up the remaining browned drippings and place them in a small saucepan. Add the shallots, 1/2 cup of the stock, Madeira and peppercorns. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the remaining chicken stock until smooth. Slowly drizzle this to the sauce, stirring continuously. Add the salt and pepper to taste, stirring for another 5 minutes. Serve in a warm gravy boat with the roast goose.