Ah, the Christmas goose — a glistening golden brown bird brimming with roasted chestnuts, flanked by colorful winter fruits on a silver platter. If this is your vision of a Christmas goose, you’ll need to stop by the meat market and purchase a big, fat, farm-raised bird. Wild geese don’t look or taste like their domesticated cousins. The wild meat is darker and much leaner. It still tastes great, but only if it has been handled with a little care and consideration.
The origins of Christmas goose stem from ancient Jewish and Egyptian traditions. Jews learned about goose cultivation while in Egypt in Mosaic times, then brought their tradition of eating goose during Hanukkah to Europe. Copied by their Christian neighbors, goose became a Christmas tradition.
Let’s start by removing the legs at the body. We’re going to cook those at least two hours longer than the body. Rub the legs with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, place them in a roasting pan and throw in some chopped celery, carrots, onion, and garlic. Now add enough chicken broth and/or dry white wine to almost cover the legs. Cover with foil and place in a preheated 425-degree F oven for one hour. Then, flip them over, replace cover and cook for another hour. Check them for doneness. The meat should start to pull away from the bone with minimal effort. If not, stick them back in the oven, making sure that there’s still about an inch or so of liquid in the pan, and keep cooking until tender. When ready, carefully remove the legs from the pan and set aside. Discard the stuff left in the pan.
Repeat the process for the body. Start by rubbing with olive oil, you know, just like the legs. Place them in a roasting pan, breast-side down, with fresh chopped celery, etc. and add about one to two inches of chicken stock and/or dry white wine. Cut a few wedges from an apple and place under the breasts to keep it from falling over onto its side in the pan. Cover with foil or lid and place in a preheated 325-degree F oven for about twenty-five minutes or, and this is really important, the internal temperature of the breast is 130 degrees. After about fifteen minutes into the cooking, add the cooked legs to the pan and replace foil or lid. When done (130 degrees), remove the goose parts and let stand for a few minutes.
Now, it’s gravy time. Pour the contents of the pan through a colander and into a saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. Add some sliced mushrooms, herbs, finely diced vegetables, etc. if you like. Thicken gravy with a mixture of equal parts cornstarch and cold water. Add a little at a time while stirring until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, remove the whole breast halves from the carcass. Slice and arrange on a platter with the legs. Garnish with apples and oranges. Serve with gravy on the side.