St. Martin’s day is celebrated in the evening of November 11 in Flanders, parts of the Netherlands and the Catholic areas of Germany and Austria. Children go by the doors with paper lanterns and candles, and sing songs about St. Martin and about their lantern in return for a treat, very similar to the American tradition of Halloween.
When I started school at the age of six, our family lived in Germany. Until I read the previous chapter in Wikipedia, I thought the evening lantern parade I participated with my schoolmates in 1982 was indeed Halloween celebration. Live and learn :)
Some time ago my aunt told me about goose roast which is the food traditionally eaten on the St. Martin’s day. According to legend, Martin (316 “? 397 AD) was reluctant to become bishop, which is why he hid in a stable filled with geese. The noise made by the geese betrayed his location to the people who were looking for him. Unforgiving to the poor geese he ordered them to be slaughtered every year on that day.
I wanted to cook something nice for the Father’s Day, and then remembered the goose roast, which sounded really yummy to me. I found a fresh one from my favorite butcher shop, Reinin Liha, albeit at €14.99 / kg ($8.70 / lbs) it definitely isn’t something I’m planning to cook regularly.
The bird looks like a longish, small turkey, but its meat is dark like duck. There is also a really thick layer of fat under the skin which fortunately melts in the oven. Just like with whole turkeys, the giblets were left inside the body cavity in a small plastic bag. I roasted the neck, heart and gizzards, but reserver the big liver for further use. Mmm, fried goose liver!
The tips of the wings and the extra, fatty flaps of the skin are cut away before stuffing and roasting.
It’s said there are as many recipes for the St. Martin’s day goose as there are cooks. I checked a few trusty books for reference – Joy of Cooking, and Nigella’s How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food – but after some googling found a tasty-looking recipe by Jeffrey Steingarten, originally from his book It Must’ve Been Something I Ate: The Return of the Man Who Ate Everything.
The recipe is super long, so instead of rewriting it I decided to simply copy it here.
My family really enjoyed the bird, and especially the pears and apples also described in the recipe. My roasting pan wasn’t big enough to hold the pears and the goose, so I baked the pears separately in their own baking dish. I simply divided the chicken broth and wine in two equal parts, and used the other half to baste the bird.
In addition to the pears, apples and the veggies, I served the roast with mashed potatoes and gravy made from the drippings.
Alsatian Goose Roast With Cardamom & Orange Pears
4.5 kg (10 lbs) young fresh goose
1 kg (2 lbs) sweet apples, peeled & cubed
2.5 dl (1 cup) carrots, chopped
2.5 dl (1 cup) celery, chopped
2.5 dl (1 cup) celery root, chopped
6-8 pears (one per person), peeled but with stems left intact
zest of 2 organic oranges
0.5 tsp ground cardamom
7 dl (3 cups) chicken stock
1 bottle white Alsatian wine, e.g. Gewürztraminer
all purpose flour to thicken the gravy
At least one day in advance, wash the goose inside and out. With a cleaver, chop off the first joint of both wings and reserve them along with the neck, the heart, and the gizzards.
Save the liver for another use. Pull all the excess white fat from the goose’s cavity and reserve. Cut off the neck skin flap, leaving only a few inches of it.
Brine and pierce the goose.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F).
Choose a heavy roasting pan just large enough to hold the goose comfortably on the diagonal. Cut half the reserved fat into small pieces and melt it in the roasting pan over medium high heat on the stove top.
Rub a little fresh black pepper and salt into the cavity and the skin of the goose. Add the cubed apples but do not crowd them. Pull together the 2 skin flaps at the opening, push short skewers or even toothpicks through them, and secure the skin by lacing with string. Wrap and tie 2 separate lengths of string around the goose’s body, 1 around the breast to keep the wing joints close to the body, the other around the fattest part of the drumsticks.
Remove the solids from the melted fat and brown the goose on all sides, regulating the heat to avoid burning the fat. This will take between 20 minutes and 1/2 hour. Balance the goose on the sides of the roasting pan or hold it by the drumsticks to get at irregular surfaces. Meanwhile, chop the reserved neck, wingtips, and innards into 1-inch pieces.
When the goose is nicely browned, remove from the heat, set the goose on its back, and scatter the pieces of neck and wing around it. Slide the roasting pan into the preheated oven and roast for 1/2 hour, basting after 10 and 20 minutes. Pour and spoon off the fat into a bowl. Scatter the vegetables and pears around the goose. Moisten them with a little of the goose fat you have just removed and roast for 15 minutes. Using a bulb baster or a spoon, remove as much of the fat from the pan as you can.
Sprinkle the orange zest and ground cardamom over the pears, pour half the stock and half the wine over them, and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 175°C (300°F), pour the rest of the wine and stock over the goose, and roast for about an hour longer (removing the pears to a baking dish after a half hour), until the thighs reach 75°C (170°F) on an instant-read thermometer thrust into the thickest part of the meat.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Turn the heat up to 200°C (400°F) again. Lift the goose to a plate and immediately remove the apple stuffing to the baking dish holding the pears. Strain the roasting liquid into a saucepan, skim off most of the fat, and reduce to about 1 cup on the stovetop. Wipe out the roasting pan and put the goose back into the oven for 15 minutes to crisp its skin. Spoon a little goose fat and some of the half-reduced roasting liquid over the pears and the apple stuffing and put them in the oven with the goose to rewarm and brown slightly.
Let the goose rest for 20 minutes and serve on a large platter, surrounded by the little roast pears and the apple stuffing.