Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Goose of Christmas Repast

If you read this drivel of mine, you know that we celebrate Thanksgiving regularly in Texas and co-host a Borgasmord locally each Christmas. The Borgasmord usually takes place within a day or two of Christmas itself and is SO food-centric that we forgo a typical Christmas meal and make do with left-overs from the Borg.

(Christmas Eve is almost always tamales and beans cuz, well....., that's how we roll..... )

Now this year is going to be an exception because the Borg is being held a week early to accommodate a vital attendee's holiday schedule and really, it would NOT be a party without her. As such, that means the left-overs (if any. Last year, they were thin to say the most)(not a complaint! This only means we either didn't make enough or the guests were really tapping into their inner-Swede) will probably not last another 7 days in the fridge. What to do, what to do?

John hit on the idea of a Christmas Goose. How delightful! I've never had goose in my long(ish) life and have images of a Victorian groaning table. The roast goose surrounded by casseroles and brussell sprouts, jellies and aspics and the like. Holly and Ivy. Lots of velvet attire.... a lute lilting in the background..

So off we went in search of a goose. You don't find these languishing in the butcher's case down here in the South. I don't know what you find up north or out west. I think they may be more popular elsewhere.

Here, in the deep and sacred south of I-10, a Turducken is fairly well-eaten. The turkey is always welcomed, especially if it's been fried in peanut oil. Even duck is common and the remains tossed in a gumbo with andouille sausage. But not the goose. Which is strange, considering we have around a million of the blasted birds loitering around ponds and golf courses, making a nuisance of themselves.

John's first stab, last week, was at Rouse's: a local chain of groceries and very fine purveyor of gourmet items and all things Louisiana. To the meat counter he went and asked the fellow behind it if they had goose coming for Christmas. (Start early. Never leave this quests to the last minute).
"Yeah, .... we were thinking of roasting one for Christmas......"
"No. We don't carry goose."
"Really!? It's a traditional Christmas dinner..."
"Not since Dickens"

I thought that was pretty funny.... but, now the challenge was upon us and we met it with gusto. I imagine Whole Foods carries goose but the nearest one is either Baton Rouge or New Orleans and I don't see myself going to that length.

(Actually, the nearest geese are about 2 miles away, milling around a pond but I also don't see myself poaching a Canadian and plucking feathers anymore than I see myself wring a rooster's neck)

So Monday, we set off to The Fresh Market, a very up-scale market in Mandeville. So up-scale, they use dim lights and dark ceilings. It's like shopping in a cave. Everyone whispers when they speak. The baskets and carts are all small. But the selection is incredible. So are the prices. We learned.

The man behind the meat counter told us they expected a shipment of geese next week but they didn't have any at that moment. I asked if we could put our name on one as a reserve. No problem at all. He brings out a pad, makes the appropriate notations, gets my name and phone numbers and tells us he'll call when they arrive. Then he rips off the duplicate copy and emphasizes that we MUST bring this paper when we retrieve the bird. No tickie, no taco! OKAY!

On the ride home, John reminds me that this is all out of a Sherlock Holmes story and when we get back to the house, he gets the tome out for me to reread. I know I read it once and really don't remember the gist of the sitch so I tell him I'll read it again. Haven't yet. Haven't stopped moving long enough to read.

Then suddenly, yesterday, not 2 days after we placed the hold on the goose, we get a phone call from the Fresh Market informing us that the geese flew in! I asked if he could leave it tagged in the freezer for us til I get off work Thursday. No problem again, but "Don't forget to bring the receipt we gave you when you placed the order."

They really do take this seriously! John overheard the phone conversation and said, "Let's go!"

"But I can pick it up tomorrow after work. Save the gas..."
"Let's go!"

So we went. Fresh Market is about 18 miles from where we live and this gave us time to Google cooking tips in preparation of the roasting of said goose. Jaques Pepin, my go-to guy (read; chef extraordinaire) goes into good detail about lifting the skin away from the flesh and steaming the bird the day prior to roasting. All this is toward a less greasy meal. (remember this... more to come)

We discussed the various potential side dishes and as the sprouts are not ready in the garden, they are off the menu. We settled on sweet potatoes, wild rice and a salad. Simple.

When we got to the shop, we were bouncing with excitement and took a small cart over to the meat counter, flourished the recipe (they were serious. No bird without the receipt. Mind you, we had NOT PAID for it at this point but we still need the passport. So there we were and a lady sidled up and asked, "Did you say 'goose'?"

Which launched another memorable conversation in a grocery store with a total stranger! She was from Germany, though she sounded from Chalmette, and lived on the other side fof the Pearl River. She told us how she made roast goose with seasoning she "brought back from Germany" and that's how we found out from where she hailed. I swear, when she said "New Orleans" it came out, "NuAwlens" so I was completely baffled until we learned a little more of her life history.

Anyway, she said they prepared their goose the same as Pepin except she stuffed hers with apples and that mysterious German spice (which she didn't know the name in English) and used that broth to baste to the skin during the final 20 minutes of roasting.

And now she was curious how much it cost, this goose of ours. I blanched when I saw the sticker, told her, and she replied, "Oh, I saw one here lsat year that was $110.00. But it was a French Goose....."like that explained something inexplicable.

At least it made this one look cheap.

About 15 minutes into the ride home, I said," At this price, we better NOT mess it up!"

John, " I was just thinking the same thing!"

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