Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Pre-Emptive Thanksgiving

Working again this Thanksgiving so in the spirit of making fresh lemonade out of this particularly sour batch of lemons we did our feast last Sunday, when the family was together.

Turkey? Swore never to touch that meat again. In the fourteen years I've been in the US a good chunk of those early years were spent learning all about Thanksgiving--basically Christmas but with more food--eventually deciding to give up that particular bird. Not a hard sacrifice to make--the bird is bland and dry as styrofoam and so cheap we can buy it by the metric ton and never finish before it spoils (the wife has an insidious plan--freeze the carcasses then use them when everyone is starving and there's nothing on the table). If I had anything to do with anything I'd serve lamb steak duck rabbit pork--but never turkey.

To this end I bought an organically raised goose at Wegmans--50% off so the price wasn't insane--thawed it a week before in the fridge, removed from fridge an hour before to bring up to room temperature, poked all over with the tip of a knife (the better to render the fat dear), trimmed neckskin and excess flab around the rear cavity (which I set aside along with heart liver gizzard wingtips neck), rubbed all over with two halves of a cut lemon which I then stuffed into the bird along with a head of garlic with the top cut off. Seasoned heavily with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper and (as specified in The Splendid Table) roasted in a 325 F oven until probe thermometer stuck in thickest part of the breast meat read 130 F.

Meanwhile--waste not want not (just stuffed with aphorisms today!)--so I sliced the trimmed skin into strips, pricked them with the tip of a knife, fried them in a pan, served my gooseskin chicharron with a dollop of canned whole cranberries (see pic above) as an uh amuse-bouche if you like, the soursweet berries cutting into the richness of crunchy skin and crispy fat.  Seasoned the goose liver fried that up served it too--not necessarily foie gras but rare-red crunchy-fresh and juicy.

When the goose breast reached 130 F pulled it out of the oven, carefully sliced off the meat with a boning knife (gets easier with practice). Popped the remaining bird back in the oven to roast till the probe thermometer stuck in the thigh meat registers 160 F and the carcass is a beautiful golden brown (see above).

Meanwhile I set aside the half-cooked breast meat:

Been busy on the side making gravy of course: seasoned neck and wingtips browned in a hot pan (with some of the goose fat rendered from making gooseskin chicharron), added onions stirred till browned added flour stirred till nutty. Added the Madeira; when roiling added the chicken stock; when combined added the thyme--fresh not dried. Why? Because! 

Results below: 

Does it look good? Hope so. Nice gloss, I thought, and if I simmer long enough it'll thicken well. 

After a while I tasted it: darkly flavored, acidic from the Madeira. Cut through the rich goose meat. Asked for an opinion:

"It's aight."

"Aight? That's it?"

"It's aight."

Remembered the last time I did goose strictly according to this recipe: folks tasted, made polite noises, reached for the whole cranberry jelly (the meat, on the other hand, they loved). Uh oh.

So I improvised: several spoonfuls of brown sugar (last time I cooked goose--around but not exactly Christmas--I used a sweet thick balsamic). Asked for a second opinion.

The taster smacked his lips asked for seconds then walked away.


The chicharron gave me so much goose fat I even had enough to make a starch. Got some baby gold potatoes, boiled them five minutes, put them in a pan seasoned with salt pepper garlic cloves  sprig of rosemary, spooned the fat over each spud, roasted them in the oven some twenty minutes. Took them out, mashed them a bit to break the skin and make the top a crumbled rough surface. Spooned more goose fat sprinkled more salt n pepper, stuck it back in the oven till it came out looking like this:  

Crispy outside loamy inside fragrant from the rosemary and roasted garlic--can you say "Good, that?"

"Goose fat!"

The folks had been asking for a vegetable side; didn't have the time so I bought enough arugula to fill a big salad bowl:

Whipped together a salad dressing using Weyira Olive Oil (the least bitter with the fruitiest flavor) and some of that 15-year-old balsamic, add minced garlic salt and pepper, whisked.

Finally took the reserved breast meat (the juices that had seeped out I poured into the gravy) and seared them--hard--on a saute pan, three minutes each side.  The results below:

Imagine fine steak done to a juicy rare with a rich dark beefy flavor; then imagine that steak topped with a crispy chicharron skin that crackled when you used a knife or bit down with your teeth. 

And then--Why? Because!--did rabbit stew. Some cut-up rabbit from Giant (they seem to be available regularly now):

--seasoned floured and browned (using goose fat for oil) and according to a recipe by Scott Conant which I've done before. Took out the rabbit added onions more goose fat flour that I cooked till nutty brown added shallots and onions (didn't have enough shallots) added carrots minced garlic (no spring garlic) salt. Added stock and white wine. Added some dried morels I found in Giant and rinsed (figured if they're dried they would suck up the stew juices better and besides I didn't know anyone who picked fresh morels) simmered a little added peas then topped in small scoops with some tarragon buttermilk biscuit batter I'd made. Added a sprig of rosemary on top of that for the aroma--like rosemary but not too much rosemary.

Below is the stew with half the biscuit batter added (morels bouncing merrily in lower half):

Some forty minutes later:

Surprised how well that turned out. Rabbit was falling off the bone tender the stew a lovely mix of rabbit juice and dry white wine the morels made earthy punctuation and the tarragon buttermilk biscuit topped it all with crisp-edged lightheaded sweetness (okay I cheated and sneaked in more sugar than was called for):


Have to admit one goose some baby potatoes a tub of arugula and a pair of rabbits in stew wouldn't be enough to feed seven people. About the time I raised my head long enough to realize this and start worrying Sister-in-law came up and said "it's ready."

"What's ready?"

"The turkeys."

I turn around and behind my back without my realizing it she had somehow cooked two turkeys (six dollars each with a $25 purchase, again from Giant):

"I'm uh thanks but I'm full."

"Try some."

"What's that smell?"

"Stuck them with all the parsley basil lemongrass from the garden outside, rubbed inside and out with a paste made out of butter and white wine then baked in an ovenproof plastic bag for a few hours, to keep the whole thing moist. Try the breast--it's juicy."

Okay. Now I'm stuffed.

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