Big Daddy's Kitchen

Tall Tales and Anecdotes

  Cooking your Own Goose

With the thermometer reading 50 degrees on the 22nd, and with visions of Charles Dickens and Mr McGoo swimming in my head, I decided that this would be the year that I finally have my Christmas goose. This decision nearly cost me a long standing relationship with perhaps the only person in the universe who would actually live with me and enjoy it, but such is the price of dreams fulfilled.

See, my sweetheart doesn't really like fowl that much. Well, he likes chicken a lot, and it takes almost nothing to talk him into ordering a duck in a restaurant, but there's just something about roasting a large fowl at home that really puts him off. The "something" is that he can't stand it. The smell of roasting turkey is the worst for him, which makes him an absolute delight come Thanksgiving day. He tolerates the scoops of starch slop that go along with such a dinner, but he only tolerates it because he can't think of any place better to stay.

The other problem he has with eating big home-roasted birds is my cooking technique, which somehow manages to evenly distribute bits of dinner all over the kitchen (and parts of the living and dining rooms) during the hours preceding dinner. Lest he think "Well, it makes her happy", he also gets to watch me drop the bird on the floor, find out that pies ALWAYS land face down, invent whole new prefixes to express the unprecedented number of lumps in my gravy (which he hates even more than the bird), cuss a lot, cry a lot, and cut at least half my hair off with the electric knife. So, it was with the same look of confused concern that he used back when I was going to give myself a liposuction job, that he finally gave in and let me cook my goose this Christmas. The only condition was that I allow him to cover all the kitchen surfaces in plastic first. Actually, we made a feeble attempt at first to find a restaurant that served Christmas goose. Feeble because we actually found a place (or were told of it before we even started to look), but failed to make reservations because I didn't know if it was worth driving to the next state for.

Anyway, I enjoy cooking, or so I seem to think. Cooking one's goose is an interesting experience, to say the least. The first thing you should do in preparing a goose is to take pictures of your kitchen before you start. This isn't absolutely necessary, but it is nice proof that so much damage could be done in a few short hours. Cooking a goose has an even more profound effect on your kitchen than Tang has on your dishwasher, although it isn't nearly as positive as Tang. As it turns out, I learned quite a bit about geese that I didn't know before. Here's one thing about geese: They're water fowl. Doesn't mean anything to you? Well try this one: I seriously doubt that geese have found Jane Fonda yet. I mean, I thought I was fat, but I hadn't seen anything yet. Another thing is that geese are approximately the most ornery critters on the face of this planet. Sure, a shark will eat you without so much as a "by your leave", and a cat will devour everything you hold dear, but a goose is just downright nasty. Try walking up to introduce yourself to one sometime, and you'll see what I mean. The only reason geese aren't more popular than watchdogs is that a watch-goose would just as happily kill its owner, as well as any intruder.

I guess I knew that much already, but what I didn't know is that they're just as ornery in death as they are in life. They're hard to find in the supermarket, they have just tons of gookie stuff inside that you have to clean out before roasting, they feel even more disgusting than raw chicken, and they'll hiss and spit at you the whole time you're roasting them. This is the part I didn't know: Roasting a goose is almost exactly like roasting a 12 pound slab of bacon, only the bacon would be less messy. In a nutshell, take a 12 pound goose, stick it in the oven, and when all's said and done, you'll have five pounds of cooked goose and seventeen pounds of goose grease.

I have no idea how this can happen, but I was there, and it happened. Another thing that happened was that we found about four sets of directions of how to cook a goose, and none of them seemed to match. You'd think that you'd just stick it in a roasting pan and cook it like a turkey, but you'd be wrong. Of course, you could try, and you'd probably end up with a lot smaller mess, but this is clearly not in keeping with what appears to be a tradition of lubricating your entire kitchen on Christmas day. It would seem that the directions for cooking the goose are ritualistic to some point; a sort of penance that does almost as much harm to the chef as to the goose. In the end, we took the steps that all the different directions seemed to agree on, and were met with about as much success as you'd expect in such a venture.

I'm just recounting them here from memory, although I still have some strong memories, so I think it'll be accurate:

Step 1: Thaw the goose - This is the easy part. It converts what used to be an oblong brick in a plastic bag into a soft, mushy, disgusting feeling salmonella culture in a plastic bag. Yes, you will have to remove it from the plastic bag, which will probably require about as much courage as you can muster.

Step 2: Remove the excess fat from the body cavity - Don't take this too seriously, else you might not have any goose left afterward. The excess fat in the body cavity will probably constitute about 1/5 of the bird by weight.

Step 3: If it's a wild goose, oil the skin - If it isn't, you've got to be kidding. As a matter of fact, I can't imagine why you'd want to oil the skin on even a wild goose. Maybe by "wild", they didn't mean the origins of the goose itself, but rather the experience you're planning on having.

Step 4: Stuff the bird - Might as well make the stuffing dry, because there'll be no end of moisture for it to soak up later on. You'll also probably notice that there's room for more stuffing inside the bird than there is meat on the bird. My sweetie takes this to be a good sign.

Step 5: Put the bird in a shallow roasting pan - Nothing ever really said why it should be shallow, and not just a regular deep roasting pan like one I always use to roast turkey. As a matter of fact, I've heard of people doing quite well with a deep roasting pan. I think the reason that you don't want to use a deep one is that if you're lax about following steps 7-18, you'll end up deep frying the bird in its own fat. With a shallow pan, it'll just run over the sides.

Step 6: Put the bird in a 400 degree oven - breast side up, for an hour.

Steps 7-18: Stop by every five minutes - to siphon off the quart of grease that's materialized since you last saw the bird. Wear dark glasses when you do this, because when you open the oven door, it'll be hissing and spitting bad enough already, and if it recognizes you, it'll get even worse. No, the dark glasses won't just disguise you. They'll also keep you from getting grease spit in your eye. Not even death can diminish the crabbiness of a goose. Oh yes: Also part of these steps is to continually reset the smoke alarm. All that fat shooting off the goose that manages to miss you is going to fall right square on the oven's heating elements, and generate almost as much smoke.

Step 19: Reduce the heat - to 325 degrees and turn the bird over. The only fathomable reason for turning the bird is that by now it'll be stuck to the bottom of the pan, and trying to turn it will distribute goose fat over all exposed kitchen surfaces when the thing comes unstuck. Anyway, the spirit of the soon departed goose will be amused at watching you and your soon to be ex-spouse gingerly trying to wrestle a hissing, spitting, slimey disgustingly greasy bird carcass loose from the bottom of the roasting pan.

Steps 20-43: Stop by every five minutes - for the next two hours to siphon off the rest of the grease. It should be pretty well dead by now, meaning that you can put away (throw away) the dark glasses. It won't be spitting grease anymore. It'll just be gushing out the sides.

Step 44: Answer the doorbell - and explain to the EPA agent what you're doing to the sewer system, why you're doing it, and how it relates to Christmas and the holiday spirit.

Step 45: When the greaseball - reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees, remove from the oven, shower, and frantically prepare all the side dishes.

Step 46: After the bird has cooled - for 15 minutes, gingerly pierce the skin with a fork, and try to catch the bird as it flies around the kitchen explosively disposing of hot grease under pressure.

Step 47: Attempt to carve the bird - marveling at how it can have a completely unexpected and illogical bone structure. Don't worry about where on the bird the meat comes from, because it's all dark meat: A rich dark brown. Keep a firm grip on the knife as it slides around on all the greasy parts (which is anything in the kitchen, at this point).

Step 48: Sit down - to some of the most wonderful tasting poultry you're ever liable to sink teeth into. This stuff is to die for. It's one of the most wonderful things I've ever eaten. Furthermore, the stuffing took on some goose flavoring, too, so it tasted wonderful as well. My dearest said: "Well, it's sort of like turkey dark meat." Roughly translated into English, this means "This really sucks and I hope it's at least another decade before I have to endure this again."

Oh yes, I almost forgot:

Step 49: Rush down to the emergency room - and get those 2nd and 3rd degree burns all over your face looked at. On second thought, don't. The doctor will just laugh his *ss off, mutter something about "goose measles", and insist on taking your cholesterol level. No, he isn't worried about your health. He and the other doctors have a pool going to see who can find the person with the highest cholesterol count. One look at you, and he knows that he's going home a rich man. Well, *I* thought it was wonderful, and as soon as we've worked out the divorce settlement, I think I'll try doing it again.

A tale by Dawn Banks

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