This year, my husband, Mark, and I had to unexpectedly spend New Year’s apart. While I was at my sister’s house in Buffalo cooking collards and beans with ham for her brood (more on that later), Mark was in New Hampshire with two of his sisters doing me proud. He even went so far as to write about the meal he served. What follows is his “guest blog”:
Roasting a Goose for New Year’s Day
I confess, from the start, my sisters were really in charge. But let’s not jump ahead…
It all began in early November during the planning of our family Thanksgiving. We are quite fortunate (and thankful) that 18 of us (parents, siblings, spouses and grandkids) happily overlook any potential for family friction (we are not abnormally immune to such drama), and faithfully show up on my Mom’s doorstep, in the cold wilds of the Poconos, every year for Thanksgiving. The logistics of feeding this crowd for the long holiday weekend—including the big dinner—requires a bit of forethought and more than a few emails. At one point, I innocently sent out an email suggesting that, in addition to the requisite turkey, we roast a goose for Thanksgiving. Immediately my boisterous nephews, as well a chorus of others family members, summarily and loudly dismissed the idea. Their protest had nothing to do with the goose per se, they were simply saying “We love and need thanksgiving at Grandma’s, so don’t go messin’ with it!”
Back and forth the emails flew, fine-tuning our menu with no more mention of the goose and ramping up our anticipation, until one email reminded us that one niece would not be there this year due to new job responsibilities, and that she was not happy about it. “Please remove me from this email chain before I start crying,” she pleaded. A perfect salve of sorts became evident—the promise of a New Year’s goose dinner at her parent’s place (my sister and her husband) in New Hampshire. This would fulfill my hope of bowling everyone over with something exotic and grand, and my niece could look forward to a needed dose of family fun, including the usual overindulgence, reminiscences, some off the wall proclamations and witty quips—sometimes misfired with unintentionally sharp barbs (or “zingers” in our parlance), yet knowing that nothing said or done can scratch a thick skin of unfailing love and mutual admiration.
Now keep in mind that this would never have happened if I didn’t know my talented wife was going to be watching over me, or if I hadn’t had a chance to taste what I knew was a foolproof feast which she recently authored and carefully tested for one of her regular magazine articles in Fine Cooking: Roasted Goose with Brandied Prune Stuffing and Plum Gravy. http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/goose-brandied-prune-stuffing-red-wine-gravy.aspx
The sides just followed naturally – roasted butternut squash and garlic, wild rice, roasted Brussels sprouts, and simple steamed green beans, along with a nice strong Malbec. I bought the goose from my favorite local grocer’s freezer – about 12 pounds – and started defrosting it in the fridge 4 days ahead of time. Then misfortune struck: Molly needed to be in Buffalo for an emergency on her side of the family. Helping me was the least of her worries, but I had backup. My brilliant sister Marnie, who like Molly possesses that rare gift of calmly knowing what to do in the kitchen and when, MC’d the whole affair, and, along with sister Geor’s energy, we kept on task.
The defrosting was timed perfectly as there was only a touch of ice crystals left in the body when I finally rubbed it down generously with sea salt and coarse ground pepper on the morning of the big feast. I have to admit the bird look a bit scrawny compared to a turkey, but it did look healthy, and we had generous sides to make up for it. It just so happened many of us are trying to eat less meat anyway, and this was looking like a good example of how less can be more.
The first cooking phase involves steaming the bird to render much of the fat off. I had completely forgotten the perfect pan and rack (the one Molly uses) in my rush to leave Vermont, but a little improvising and lots of aluminum foil worked fine—40 minutes as prescribed. Then came the stuffing—the prunes steeped in brandy added some moisture and bulk which nicely helped prevent the bird from drying out during the 2-plus hour slow roast.
We didn’t have a meat thermometer (which Molly would never do without), but the cooking time called for was perfect. We opted on the low side for the cooking time since the bird was also on the smaller end of the scale and used the “doneness tests” as described in the recipe. We did have a little scare while carving – the inside of the bones were red,
but on closer inspection the meat was well done, moist and crazy delicious. The gravy, made with plum jelly, was just how I like it—rich, but thin, and packed with flavor from sautéing and simmering the neck and gizzards. All in all, a tremendously successful meal. The perfect amount of food (there were no leftovers of any kind), great company, a warm fire in the hearth, and another great family memory.
Written by Mark (Thank you!)