Author: Luisa Perkins
•3:16 PM
Last night we hosted our annual church Christmas Open House; we had about 70 people show up with lots of holiday treats to share, and everyone seemed to have a grand time. The highlight for me was lighting the candles on our Christmas tree and singing carols with all of our friends. There's nothing like the sound of that many voices to fill up your living room; it was glorious.

I went to bed happily exhausted, mentally running through the next hurdles on our Christmas journey. All the presents wrapped: check. Food items to bring to the in-laws' house on Christmas Day afternoon: check. I looked forward to the fact that Christmas Eve would be just the family, with maybe some quiet games, a puzzle, and a movie or two to while away the peaceful hours while Patrick completes his annual Christmas Eve Day Manhattan shopping extravaganza with a couple of old friends.

Suddenly I realized that I had no plan for Christmas Eve dinner. What to fix? Nary a clue. Patrick jokingly suggested hot dogs, but I was officially stumped. I decided that I would figure it out in the morning.

This morning I pulled out my trusty copy of The Way to Cook, knowing that Julia Child would give me guidance. I flipped through many tasty options: Designer Duck, Beef Wellington, Lobster Thermador, etc., but I kept coming back to the Steam-Roasted Goose page.

Goose: of course. What could be more Dickensian? Julia recommends steam-roasting for duck and goose in order to render out a lot of the fat that lies just under the skin of these particular birds. It sounded pretty straightforward. Sous-chef James and I set out together to Adams, the Hudson Valley's gourmet supermarket, to see what we could find. I had a rough Plan B in mind--Oyster Bisque--in case there was no goose to be found.

But there was! She was an eleven-pound, free-range, all-natural lovely from Whetstone Farm in Indiana. The only wrinkle was that she was frozen solid. James and I decided to gamble that we could do a quick hot-water bath defrost to have the bird ready for go-time. We put her in the sink at about 11:00 a.m. 2:20 p.m. The goose is thawed, praise all the saints. Julia recommends some preliminary surgery to make post-roasting carving easier; I remove the wishbone, cut off the wings at the elbows, and dislocate the remaining stumps. Then I dislocate the legs and truss the bird as directed. I know the goose is too long for my covered roasting pan (a necessary accessory for steam-roasting), so I bone the legs. I've boned a duck while leaving the skin intact for a pate recipe before, so I know it wouldn't be hard to bone the legs, tie off the stumps, then break the bones and remove them. Here she is, all ready to go. No, your eyes do not deceive you, knitters. I ran out of kitchen twine, so our girl is trussed with some Sugar n' Cream cotton yarn in the Arc-en-Ciel colorway:
Houston, we have a problem. Even with the leg bones removed, our girl is too long for the roasting pan. I remove the tail, hoping to cross the legs into the vacated space; she still doesn't quite fit.

Radical idea: I butterfly the goose. I've butterflied many a chicken and every turkey we've roasted for the past five years; I know that this is a space-saving solution. But will it work for a goose? Only time will tell. It won't be the picture-perfect Cratchit goose at this point, but hopefully it will taste good.

4:04 p.m. The house smells great. The goose is done steaming on the stove top; I take her out to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, the neck and other discarded parts have been roasting and are now simmering to make the stock for the gravy. My sister Stephanie calls from Utah; she's deglazing her turkey pan and thinking of me (in our family, that's a compliment). We have a nice chat until I've done everything I can do one-handed; I regretfully ring off and get back to work.

Now the goose needs to braise in the oven breast down (she steamed breast up). I pour off the steaming liquid; look how much fat we've rendered out so far. That's all golden goodness to be saved for Fabulous Dishes Future. I put the fat in a jar and pour a bit of the steaming liquid back into the roasting pan along with some white wine. The rest of the steaming liquid goes into the stock.

I saute a carrot, a celery stalk, and an onion in some goose fat, then put these aromatic vegetables in and around the goose with a sprinkling of thyme. After a double layer of heavy-duty foil and the lid, she's ready to go back in. I add a couple of blocks of soapstone on top of the lid to help keep the braising liquid in.

5:03 p.m. I think we'll be eating closer to 7:00 than our usual 6:00. No matter; I've got veg and dip and Brie and crackers to stave off the masses in the meantime. Now it's time to get everything else ready: blanched, sautéed green beans, roasted beets, and mashed potatoes. If I have time, I'll make a salad as well.

5:40 p.m. It's good that we're eating late; Patrick is just now leaving the City. The goose is done braising now; she's breast up again and entering the final browning stage. This should take about another half hour.

6:06 p.m. Ahh, there's nothing like dismembering an animal, then cutting up raw beets to make a girl feel like Sweeney Todd. And at the risk of sounding like M. Stewart, I have to say that having two ovens is a Good Thing. The beets are roasting, the goose is browning. The potatoes are boiling, and the blanched green beans are waiting for their sauté in butter and finely chopped onion. So far, so good. Knock on some wood for me, would you?

6:11 p.m. The goose, while smelling fine and having arrived at the proper temperature, is not brown. I've taken off the lid and I'm giving her another ten minutes.

7:18 p.m. Success. The breast meat was slightly dry (perhaps brining next time would fix that), but the legs were tender and delicious. The meat is very rich, as is the gravy; a little goes a long way. The rest of the meal turned out great; everybody gobbled it down in a hurry. I would definitely make goose again.

"There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness were the themes of universal admiration. Edged out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish) they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows." -- Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

God bless us, everyone!
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On 24/12/07 , painted maypole said...

i'm in awe of your kitchen prowess. i think we're having spaghetti. ;)

On 24/12/07 , Maddy said...

I was toying with the idea of duck or goose tomorrow but the philistines around here out voted me.

Compliments of the season from me and mine to you and yours.

This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"which takes you straight to my new blog.

On 24/12/07 , Annette Lyon said...

I bow to your cooking greatness. We had an early Christmas dinner with the in-laws, so supper tonight? Treats around the game table. For Christmas I'll make an actual meal, but nothing nearly as fancy as a goose and all those trimmings you made up.

Your quote on the bottom reminded me of a cookbook you'd probably love: The Booklover's Cookbook. Lots of recipes with literary quotes that accompany them. It's fun just to read through.

Merry Christmas, Luisa!

On 25/12/07 , Meleah Rebeccah said...

Merry Christmas XXOO :)

On 25/12/07 , Anonymous said...

Sometimes the best meals are the ones the just "come together" on a whim. Good job getting it all done.

That concert in the living room must have been something else. Next year, record the singing and give out CD's to the guests. I bet they would enjoy that and you could start a new tradition!!

Hope you are having a Merry Christmas!

On 26/12/07 , Anonymous said...

Wow, such amazing work with the goose to get it to fit. I have made goose on a few occasions. To be honest I buy it for the fat. I skin the whole bird, clean the chunks of skin with the fat on it, salt it and freeze it. Then for things like fried potatoes, dice it in small (1mm) pieces and fry until crisp, then add the potatoes. I use if for frying all sorts of other things as well, and it gives an awesome flavour, probably the same as the oil you saved. After processing the skin, I have to figure out what to make with the goose, because it is not a preferred meat in this house. I have cooked it in sauerkraut and I have made an apple stuffing for it. I think the sauerkraut is the preference.

It sounds like you had a great Christmas eve and previous night also. I love your post and how you ended with some Dickens.

On 26/12/07 , Candace E. Salima said...

Wow, now that's a Christmas Eve dinner! I'm so impressed I don't even know where to start.

By the way, I tagged over at my blog yesterday and forgot to tell you. I hope your Christmas was absolutely marvelous!

On 26/12/07 , anjmae said...

Ok, so you decided, on a whim, to have goose. That is incredible. We had pie.

On 26/12/07 , Jenna said...

You. Are. Crazy. In a good way, but CRAZY! Who does THAT on a whim???? You, that's who. I bow to you. It made for a great blog post, besides the fabulous Christmas Eve dinner.

You know who's crazier? Patrick! Christmas Eve shopping in the City??? Good night, Nurse! You two are made for each other! And I loves ya both!

On 26/12/07 , Tristi Pinkston said...

I'm rather amazed myself -- a goose, spur of the moment. Wow -- you so totally rock, I can't even say.

On 26/12/07 , Alice said...

You are so cool! It kills me. I've never had goose, so I guess you'll have to make it again. I insist to be present, however, so I can watch the magic in person. Next Christmas Eve, I'll be at your house, ok?

On 27/12/07 , Darrell said...

Hope you had a great Christmas!

Love the B's

On 27/12/07 , Marley (Jacob, not Bob) said...

You've got it goin' on, Mrs. Cratchit (and Mr., if you’re reading). You and P have always reminded me of these two pure-hearted characters. Compliments to you and Sweet Baby James – Julia is surely smiling down.

On 27/12/07 , E. Scrooge (ambivalent period) said...

A gathering of Christmas carolers! In your home? Bah! Humbug! But wait! Aren't they all Republicans? Now, why didn't you invite me, my dear?!

On 27/12/07 , Kimberly said...

Suddenly I feel ashamed...having had Captain Crunch for breakfast. I've stopped eyeing up the peanut butter bars...there are better foods out there! Better foods!

Sounds absolutely lovely! You're amazing!

On 27/12/07 , Brillig said...

Um, I think your goose was flashing me up there. Hmmmmm. Should I be flattered?

Very Dickensian indeed. I salute the Dickensian-ness.

And next year, I'd really like to sing in your living-room concert. Can I come?