EatDrinkShopCook / Take a gander at 'other' holiday bird
"There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration."
-- From "A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens
There isn't a more exciting time in my house than at Christmas dinner. Each year, I send my husband to fetch the goose while I tend to the chestnuts and plum pudding. My young son sets the table and everyone eagerly awaits the great golden goose's emergence from the glowing oven. Finally, when it is brought to the table, I plunge my carving knife into the breast and the dried fruit stuffing bursts forth, resulting in a resounding "Hurrah!" from everyone.
That's the Crachit family. I've never cooked a goose in my life. But is there anything that says Christmas dinner more than goose? It's so Victorian/Dickensian, so picture-perfect, yet I've never known anyone who has served goose for Christmas. Why is that, I wondered? Clearly it was time for some answers.
My first thought was to look for local restaurants that might be serving goose on Christmas Eve or maybe even New Year's Eve. No such luck. Beef is definitely the entrée of choice. Time for Plan B.
After stopping at the Driftwood Café in Southport center for a quick bite one afternoon, I decided to visit the butcher next door at the Spic & Span Market (329 Pequot Ave., Southport; 203-259-1689) to see if he might offer any insight.
Greg Peck turned out to be the man. "Sure, we have goose," he said, pointing to a sign of all the different meats the market offers. It was selling for $8.99 a pound, and most geese average about 10 to 12 pounds, he said. Spic & Span procures its geese from the Midwest.
"It's very traditional with some people," Peck said, although he noted that most people these days opt for rib roasts, beef tenderloin and turkey. "I have one guy who's come in for a goose every year for at least the past 25 years."
In addition, he has another loyal customer: Charlie Miesmer, a Southport resident who loves to cook. "My taste buds are always set off by mythic images of the past," said Miesmer. "If I could roast a deer, I would."
More InformationGOOD CHEERS: FESTIVE LIBATIONS FOR CHRISTMAS If you're going to go through the trouble of cooking a goose, you might as well go one step further and brew up some traditional beverages. Remember, the Victorians may have tried to seem prim and proper, but they also knew how to party. Egg Nog: No, not the stuff from the carton. The real deal: eggs, milk, brandy, rum and sugar. Bishop: Mulled wine with oranges. Wassail: Hot wine, beer or cider infused with spices, sugar and apple Hot Toddy: There seems to be several different ideas of what a true Hot Toddy is. Historical documents refer to it as a drink made from fermenting palm tree sap, but these days it's basically any kind of hot booze (whiskey, brandy, rum) with spices and some lemon.
This past Thanksgiving, Miesmer cooked a goose and two turkeys, and said the goose was picked clean.
Peck said he believes that the popularity of the goose has decreased because people are so busy. "Goose takes more tending to," he said. "It's not as simple as turkey. You have to render the fat." But the extra work is part of the fun for Miesmer. "I put tiny pin pricks on the skin so it becomes very self-basting," he said.
Because it is so rich and fatty, a bread-based stuffing isn't right for goose. Instead, Miesmer uses a blend of prunes, figs, dates, nuts and sometimes bacon. In the past, he's smoked geese in a big Texas smoker, and other times has cooked them in a convection oven and basted it with Grand Marnier. "I've probably brought a flock of geese from Greg," said Miesmer.
This year, he'll be preparing a goose on Christmas Eve, and "on Christmas Day," he said, "I'll be making probably the finest thing a man can eat: a standing rib roast. Sounds like I'm not going to make it to the next day, doesn't it?" he laughed.
Contact Patti Woods, author of the weekly "EatDrinkShopCook" food features and blog at email@example.com.