Holiday Goose

We don’t argue politics at Kelly family gatherings; we argue menus. I want something exotic for Christmas dinner, something fancy. Ma Kelly insists on something traditional. Husband Patrick just wants something that tastes good, “and a house without the hens pecking at each other.”

“Hens? Hens?!” I gasped, readying a tirade. Just then, my niece galloped through the kitchen. “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please to put a penny in the old man’s hat!”

I smiled. “Not hens, honey. Geese. I’m doing stuffed goose for Christmas dinner. That’s as traditional as it gets, but for me, it’s downright exotic. Everybody wins.”

The goose chase was on. I started with Village Market in Rancho Santa Fe (858-756-3726). Richard in the meat department said that a cleaned goose was “like a duck, long and round, except probably twice as big. Ours average about eight or nine pounds at $7.99 a pound, and you get the same stuff inside as you would with a turkey — liver, gizzards, and neck. You roast it like a turkey, but there’s more fat on a goose. The rack, or rib case, is big like a turkey’s, and between that and the fat, you won’t get quite as much edible meat. We probably sell a dozen or so every Christmas.”

Richard transferred me to the service deli, where I spoke with Barbara. “We can prepare the goose for you, so that all you have to do is cook it. That’s better than having us cook it because if you had to re-warm the meat, it would dry it out. You can give us a recipe if you want, or we have several of our own. Because of the high fat content, we like to marinate the goose overnight. Then we glaze it — orange-honey goes well with both goose and duck. Oven-ready goose is $8.99 a pound, and we like to have at least 48 hours’ notice.”

Stumps Market in Point Loma (619-226-9575) carries frozen goose (eight to nine pounds, $3.99 a pound). Corey told me that “it’s a free-range goose from Stone Valley.” Siesel’s Old Fashioned Meats in Bay Park (619-275-1234) has them free-range and frozen (four to six pounds, $3.69 a pound). Mark gave me this tip: “Make sure you buy it a couple of days ahead of time, so that it has time to thaw in your fridge.”

David at Whole Foods in La Jolla (858-642-6700) describes goose as “a little bit rich. If you’ve ever had duck, the taste is in that direction. It’s all dark meat, and it tends to be a little bit fattier. But because it’s so rich, you don’t need quite as much. A 10- to 12-pound goose could feed 10 to 12 adults, depending on what kind of eaters they are. Our geese are all-natural, which means no hormones or antibiotics, 100 percent vegetarian feed, and free-range — or cage-free. They run 10 to 12 pounds and cost $6.99 a pound.”

Bristol Farms in La Jolla (858-558-4180) carries a range of sizes, all at $4.99 a pound: 8–10 pound, 10–12 pound, and 12–14 pound. Keith, the store’s meat-department manager, told me that his geese hailed from Canada. “I know the best ducks are from Canada, so I’m expecting geese from there are the most flavorful as well. Or if you’re looking for something different in poultry, we have turducken. It’s a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck stuffed into a turkey, minus the wings and legs. There are layers of stuffing between each. It comes oven-ready. The 15-pound turducken is $129; give it five hours at 350 degrees. We also sell a four-pound breast of turducken for $55.99.”

Finally, I called chef Todd Atcheson of California Cuisine in Hillcrest (619-543-0790) for a little advice. “I would cook it like a duck. You start the process in a covered roasting pan with water a third of the way up the bird. That renders out a lot of the fat. How long depends on the size of the bird — about an hour at 325˚ will usually do the trick. Then you dry-roast the goose, the way you would a normal chicken or turkey.”

As for stuffing, “When in doubt, pancetta or bacon are always good. Add bread crumbs or corn bread, onions, celery, sage, maybe thyme. For fruit, try dried cranberries or cherries. Be sure to put chicken stock in the stuffing — that will help to keep the bird moist from the inside.”

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