Life Lessons

stuffedroastgoose.jpg Everyone knows that the first thing a father teaches his son is how to roast a goose for Christmas.  Especially in a secular Jewish family.  But on Father’s Day, there’s nothing more American than Dad, stir-fried duck and Boggle. 

I don't have a middle name, and at the age of 24, it seemed time to get one.  We decided on "Danger," and went out and bought a propane fryer.  We gave thanks for deep-fried turkey, and for our remaining digits.  But even though turkey bubbling in 350°F oil is exciting, nothing beats checking Sunday night's roast chicken for the 18th time.  Mom taught me that a watched pot never boils, but Dad taught me that a whole chicken, regardless of preparation, size or start time, cannot be finished before 9PM. 

Growing up, we split kitchen lessons amongst my family.  Dad taught be how to use a knife.  And a whisk.  Mom taught me how to bake pretty much anything, but focused on cookies and pies (or at least pie interiors, as I still can't make a good crust).  My sister taught me that if you cook, you don't have to do the dishes.  I still don't know how to do the dishes, but that seems a good trade to me.

alex.jpg But the thing I learned most from my parents about the kitchen was that it’s OK to refer to a recipe.  It’s not at all the same thing as reading the directions in assembling a new toy.  Recipes are the shoulders of giants.  Before you can bridge a channel, (or swim it, or chunnel it) you have to taste the water.  (Is it salty enough?  You know this is really your last chance to get that flavor into the pasta.  And don’t forget what it does to the boiling point.)  We'd try anything once.  And sometimes twice. Every once and a while, we'd actually get something perfect, and that dish became a staple, and often, the book it came from.

My dad taught me how to comport myself in front of the stove, but he also taught me a lot of other things.  One of the things that sticks is that if you don’t wear sunscreen, you deserve the pain.  Life in the kitchen isn’t too different from life outside the kitchen, always wear sunscreen, and just keep stirring.  As long as nothing burns, you’ll probably be OK.

Steam-Roasted Goose 

(Adapted from "The Way to Cook" by Julia Child)

A 9.5 to 11 pound young roasting goose
Juice of 1 Lemon
The neck, wing ends, heart and gizzard
1 each: large carrot, onion, and celery stalk, roughly chopped
2 to 3 cups of red wine
1/2 cup of Port wine blended with 1.5 Tbs cornstarch

Preparing the goose:
Pull all loose fat out from the cavity at the rear of the goose.  Chop off the wings at just below the elbow.

Rub the goose inside and out with the lemon juice; lightly salt the inside of the cavity.

Push a long skewer through the carcass at the shoulder end, to secure the wings. Run another through the hips to secure the legs.  Tie the drumstick ends in place against the tail.  To help rendering the fat, prick the skin with a sharp skewer or needle in numerous places (but not so deep as to pierce the flesh) around the lower breast and legs.

Place the goose, breast up, on the rack of a roasting pan.  Add an inch or two of water; bring to a boil on top of the stove, and cover the pan tightly.  Reduce heat and steam for 3/4 to 1 hour, depending on the size of the goose.  Check the water level occasionally, adding a little more if it has boiled off.

Goose stock:
Chop the neck and wing ends. Simmer 2 hours in lightly salted water to cover, with the heart and gizzard.  Strain, degrease, and refrigerate.  It should make about 2 cups.

Heat oven to 325ºF.  Remove the steamed goose from the roaster and let it cool 20 minutes or so.  Pour the liquid out of the roaster (there will be several cups of goose fat, which will rise to the surface: save the fat for sautéing, or using in matzo balls (trust me).  Remove the hip skewer and season the cavity with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of thyme or sage (or both).  Replace the skewer.  Place a double sheet of foil over the rack and lay in the goose, breast down.  Strew the chopped vegetables in the pan around the goose and pour in a cup or so of wine.  Renew during cooking, as needed.  Cover tightly and braise 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on the size of the bird.  Check occasionally to see all is well, and baste with juices.

When the legs feel almost tender if pressed, turn the goose breast up.  Baste with the juices in the pan.  If the bird is already brown, set the cover slightly askew.  If it needs browning, remove the cover.  Continue roasting another 1/2 hour, or more, basting once or twice, until the drumsticks feel quite tender when pressed. Remove the goose to a carving board, and set it in the turned off oven, leaving the door ajar.

Deglaze the roasting pan.  Pour in the goose stock and Port-cornstarch mixture.  Simmer.  Strain into a saucepan, pressing the juices out of the vegetables that cooked with the goose.  Simmer several minutes, skimming fat off the surface.  Carefully correct the seasoning.

Remove the leg on the side nearest you.  Remove the wings.  Then cutting down your side of the length of the breastbone, remove the whole breast-half in one piece.  Cut it on the slant, like a sausage, to make nice medallions about 1/4 inch thick.  Repeat on the other side.