If you’re feeding a lot of people, turkey is the obvious choice for Christmas. This year, however, with the prospect of a smaller ‘Covid Christmas’ menu to plan, you might like to try something a bit different and treat yourselves to a roast goose with all the trimmings. Goose can be a bit deceptive because it looks like it will provide a large quantity of meat but the body cavity itself is huge i.e. the meat to bone ratio is way smaller than that of a turkey. That said, the meat from the breast is very rich so one *medium bird will feed six or four with leftovers. It took me a while to perfect my goose game but follow this method and you won’t be disappointed. The secret is to fast roast it first on a rack over a roasting tin to render off all the precious fat and then cook off the rack at a lower temperature having first carefully removed it from the oven and poured the precious fat from the roasting tin into a large bowl. The fat makes THE BEST roast potatoes and you’ll get quite a lot off one bird so have a big jar handy to decant it into once it has cooled. You do need to supervise that first stage quite carefully otherwise you’ll fill your kitchen with smoke but I made that mistake years ago so you don’t have to! I don’t bother cooking the stuffing in it because it makes the roasting time longer. Also, make sure that you buy a bird with the giblets intact so you can make your gravy the day before – goose gravy is thinner than you’d make for turkey but it complements the meat perfectly.
Obviously, you can serve your roast goose with whatever you like but this is my Pigeon Cottage menu developed over the years – I only make it once a year and it’s so so special. With the leftovers, I usually make my goose cassoulet for supper another day (recipe below) which is worth the Christmas effort alone! I prep pretty much everything the day before so I have minimum fuss on Christmas Day. I’m lucky enough to have a large fridge freezer in the garage to store everything but, I kid you not, I have also used the boot of my car in the garage to store things on a chilly Christmas Eve quite successfully!
Pigeon Cottage Christmas Menu
- Roast goose – breast and legs. A fresh bird is lovely but frozen is perfectly good, geese are generally raised organically in small flocks by specialist breeders in the UK or imported from e.g. Hungary. *Small is 3-4.5 kg, medium 4.5-5.5kg, large 5.5-6.5kg.
- Goose gravy made with the giblets – recipe below
- Pigs in Italian blankets (your favourite baby pork sausages wrapped in pancetta slices and oven-roasted – I use Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range)
- Goose fat roast potatoes (peel and parboil your potatoes in salted water, air dry, scuff up the edges, roast in hot goose fat until crisp and golden – 40 mins at 220°C)
- Lemon and herb stuffing
- Parsnip and chestnut purée
- Apple sauce (2 coxes apples peeled and chopped and cooked down in a saucepan until soft in a little water – shouldn’t need more than a teaspoon of sugar)
- Braised whole shallots and chestnuts with pancetta and thyme
- Braised red cabbage
- Steamed buttered sprouts
To finish – sliced oranges in Gran Marnier syrup with Chantilly cream and a cheese board
- On the morning of Christmas Eve at the very latest, defrost your goose in a large tray according to the instructions on the bag. As with any kind of poultry, don’t ever be tempted to wash it when you remove it from the bag. If the giblets come separately, that’s great, if they are frozen in a bag in the cavity you may have to defrost it a bit first to wrestle the giblet bag out. Wear rubber gloves when you handle the bird, it’s fatty which is why it tastes so fantastic but gloves make it easier and more pleasant a task. Once defrosted, still wearing your gloves, pull out any large clumps of excess fat in the neck cavity and put them in a small saucepan. You can render the fat on low heat with a little sunflower oil on your hob to render the fat, strain any bits out and store in a Kilner or screw-top jar to use later.
- To prepare the goose for cooking, place the bird on a rack over a roasting tray. I don’t cook stuffing in the cavity but I do stuff it with bay and sage leaves, apple parings (from your apple sauce), and an onion. Season the skin with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes at 220°C. Carefully remove the goose from the oven and using a couple of clean tea towels, lift the goose onto a carving board and then pour off all the fat into a bowl. Reduce the temperature to 180°C and return the goose off the rack now for another hour and a half. You shouldn’t need to pour off even more fat during this cooking time but best just keep an eye on it. The bird is cooked when the juices run clear if you pierce the thigh with a skewer.
- When the goose is cooked, remove it from the oven and lift it onto your carving board. Cover with foil and leave to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.
- Once the goose is out of the oven you can finish off or reheat your roast potatoes, red cabbage, stuffings, etc. depending on how much room you have in your oven to start with. Christmas is always quite the juggling act!
- To serve it’s easier to remove the legs and then carve the whole breast from each side before slicing it and arranging it on your serving plate. Surround with your pigs in blankets and roast potatoes, garnish with watercress. Serve with all of your side dishes and a really top-notch bottle or two of red.
- You can make this ahead of time, as soon as you can get your hands on the giblets.
- You will need 4 rashers of chopped streaky bacon, 1 tbsp goose fat, the goose giblets, a small carrot, 2 celery stalks and an onion – all chopped, 1 lire of water, 2 bay leaves, and 6 black peppercorns.
- Fry the bacon and vegetables in the goose fat until soft and golden brown. Pour off any excess fat, add the water, bay, and peppercorns. Simmer for an hour, strain through a sieve, and set aside.
- Once the goose is cooked, use this stock to deglaze the roasting dish. Make sure you pick up all the lovely sticky bits as they are full of flavour, check for seasoning, sieve again, and serve in a warmed gravy boat.
- If you have any goose meat left over after your meal, store it in the gravy as it dries out really quickly otherwise. Refrigerate and use as the basis for the goose cassoulet recipe.
- Once you’ve eaten this, you’ll realise why having leftovers on Christmas Day is worthwhile.
- Lightly grease a shallow gratin/casserole dish (about 6cm or so deep) – the size you use will depend on the number of leftovers of course. I use chunks of goose meat, pigs in blankets, whole chestnuts and shallots, chopped leftover veg like carrots, parsnips or roast potatoes. If you don’t have e.g. chestnuts leftover, make sure you have an extra pack in the cupboard and add a few of those.
- Cut your leftovers into generous bite-sized chunks, put them into a large mixing bowl, add a drained can of white cannellini beans and pour over your leftover gravy. There should be a luscious coating of gravy without the mixture swimming in it. Top it up with a little chicken stock if it looks too dry.
- Arrange the mixture in the gratin dish and make sure the meat chunks are even placed so when you serve it, everyone gets a good mixture of the best ingredients.
- Take your leftover lemon and herb stuffing, break it up into crumbs again, mix with a little melted goose fat and scatter it evenly over the gratin dish.
- Bake in the oven at 200°C for about 40 minutes. It should be slightly bubbling and the gratin topping should be crisp and golden.
- Take it out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving by itself or with some green vegetables like cavolo nero or purple sprouting broccoli.
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