THE TURKEY SWITCH: ONE MAN’S DREAM TO PUT GOOSE ON THE MENU
Borrowed from: Toonpool.
Written by: Colin Aspinall.
It started a long time ago one year at Christmas. I’d been had. I felt like the butt of some sick joke. I shook my head hoping this vision in front of me, totally uncalled for, would vanish in a puff of glittering tinsel. But the indisputable proof was sitting there in front of me, in a bowl, on the well dressed Christmas dinner table. During this time of giving gifts I had been given a punch to the mid-section. It was like Santa Claus meets Mike Tyson. And not the nice Mike Tyson either. I’m talking Iron Mike when his meal of choice was the top of some guy’s ear. Eventually I caught my breath I asked the obvious question “So. Mom. Where’s the turkey?”
It turned out that there wasn’t going to be a turkey that year because my mom had decided she wasn’t going to cook turkey for Christmas. No, instead she decided that Bouillabaisse, a rustic French fish stew, would do just fine thank you very much. How was she planning on stuffing that?!? Choking back the tears I slumped into my chair. I summoned up enough Christmas cheer to smile at my mother and say thank you. After all it was Christmas and I wasn’t about to Scrooge the dinner. Of course the dinner was excellent, memorably so! I was lucky to have parents who were quietly confident and very adept in the art of cuisine. The rich broth was studded with clams, mussels, and generous chunks of succulent fish. Topping off each fragrant bowl was a thick cut disk of crusty bread lightly toasted in butter and spread with zesty rouille. Heaven! I went back for seconds and thirds. I would even admit to having fourths if questioned under duress. The turkey was totally and completely forgotten and Christmas wasn’t ruined in the process, it was enlivened.
So this year, and inspired by that night, I have decided to buck the turkey trend, wrap myself in a warm blanket of tradition and serve a Christmas goose. What about the mess? I asked myself. How much work is this going to be really? Which Chinese take-out menu should I have on hand “just in case”? With these questions in mind I sought the help of experienced friends and family to guide me. Surly I know enough people that have made enough goose mistakes that I can benefit from their trials and errors. Because in my mind that‘s the key to getting anything right. I hate when I try a recipe for the first time and nail it, bang on, “owned” as my daughter would say. Could I do it again? I probably could, but not for sure. I prefer to make a proper mess of it the first time and with singed fingers and perhaps a surprised expression (what happened to my eyebrows?!?) I’ll have a list of things to avoid next time.
Here are some tips that have been researched and passed along to me:
• A goose is typically 10 – 14 pounds and will feed about 1 person per pound. If you have larger friends a larger goose is an excellent idea.
• The goose will have more fat under the skin than a turkey will. It is important to render out and remove the fat during roasting to prevent a big mess. Prick or score the skin on the breast and legs, be careful not to cut the flesh. Remove any excess fat from the cavity of the bird. Take the goose out of the oven a couple times during roasting, transfer the bird to a baking sheet, and pour the collected jus/fat into a glass vessel of some kind. Put the glass vessel beside your friend’s wine/beer glass and see if they drink it accidentally. Too funny!
• A friend suggested that a traditional bread stuffing will absorb the fat as it renders during the cooking, making it stodgy. That makes sense! A better suggestion was made to stuff the cavity with flavour elements and aromatics instead like lemon wedges, onion, and fresh herbs like sage or thyme. This will add flavour to the roast and help keep it moist.
• Start with a hot, hot oven around 450°F. This will kick start the browning of the skin and gives you a good shot at serving a “golden goose”. Turn down to 350° after about 10 minutes and roast for 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours or until an internal thermometer shows 180 °F.
• Of course you must let the cooked goose rest under a tin foil tent for 30 minutes (enough time to cook the veggies) because you know carving a goose right out of the oven will guarantee a dry finish.
• Make gravy. Everyone likes gravy!
Other than executing a perfect goose recipe there are other challenges that I am facing that you might be confronted with if you choose the road less traveled. Be prepared! I would suggest alerting (a strong word I know but turkey fans can be quite alarmist) friends and family of your plans well ahead of goose day. Feel out your opposition with a few carefully chosen words or phrases. “Did you know goose is higher in alpha-beta-gamma fatty acids than turkey?” might work, even though it’s complete nonsense. Or try this tactic “I just read on Huffington Post that turkeys often develop rashes caused by scabies. Did you know that?!?” Approaching the subject delicately at first, like this, will increase your chance of decreasing objections.
At this point I still don’t have the official “good to go” to make the turkey switch for Christmas this year. This is despite the fact that my research has led me to conclude that with simple ingredients and a modest amount of counter space I stand an excellent chance of serving a memorable Christmas dinner much like I had been served all those years ago. I plan on using constant steady pressure for the next couple months. A likely endgame tactic will be to leave copies of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol around the house.
“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.” If all goes well the goose will be magnificent, a story to be told ‘round the table for years after. I have a dream and plan to execute it. I trust the family will be asking for seconds and thirds (maybe fourths). But I’ll keep that Chinese take-out menu handy, just in case.