Traditionally, the finest possible fare—and most historic—for a holiday dinner is roast goose. (Remember that scene from Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”?) For an old-fashioned Christmas dinner, here’s how to roast the golden goose.
Most grocers can supply a frozen goose at any time; during the holidays fresh birds are usually available. An even better (though possibly more expensive) option is a free-range goose from a local farm, which will be more tender and taste better.
Note: Goose meat is dark, stronger, and more flavorful than turkey. Because of this, goose was traditionally served alongside other strong accompaniments such as chestnuts, cabbages, sage, and rosemary.
Read ALL of the instructions before you get started. There are optional steps or you can just stick to the basics.
A little olive oil for browning (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
A few lemons and oranges
Some herbs (thyme and sage) for stuffing
If the goose is purchased trussed, then loosen the string and pull out the legs and wings a little; this helps the bird cook better. Check the inside of the bird and remove any giblets or pads of fat. Wash the bird thoroughly and pat dry.
Prick a goose’s skin with a fork, especially in the breast area; otherwise it will be sitting in unappetizing fat! It’s also common to leave goose in the fridge for a couple days (in advance of roasting) to help it crisp up. You can prepare and stuff the bird a day in advance if you wish.
When ready to cook, remove the goose from the fridge and let it stand for 2 hours at room temperature.
A 9-pound bird (which feeds 6 to 8 people), put into the oven un-stuffed and at room temperature, will take about 2 hours to cook.
A 12-1/2 pound goose (which feeds 12 to 14 people) that’s un-stuffed takes 2 hours and 30 to 40 minutes.
Add 20 to 40 minutes if the bird is stuffed.
Do not overcook goose! You’ll know the goose is done when its juices run pale yellow; the breast meat will dry out of the goose is cooked too long.
Roasting the Goose
Preheat your oven to 475°F.
Rub the goose with sea salt and pepper to taste. If you would like, rub with the zest from lemons and oranges. Season the cavity of the goose generously with salt, too.
Optional: If you want to give the bird a nice golden color, first brown it in a large frying pan in a couple of tablespoons oil. Just hold the bird by the legs and press the breast-side into the pan to brown. Once browned, place the bird in the roasting pan.
Optional: If you wish, stuff the cavity with the lemons and oranges, and some herbs. You can really use whatever stuffing you fancy—dried fruit such as figs or prunes, other fresh fruits such as apples or pears, or vegetables such as onions or celery. (Whether you stuff the bird or not for extra flavoring, we still would prepare stuffing separately outside of the bird for serving.)
Roast the bird at 475°F for 10 minutes and reduce the heat to 375°F until done.
Ideally, your roasting pan could have a sort of wire rack fitted inside because goose creates a lot of fat drippings. Every 30 minutes or so, you’ll want to baste the bird with the pan juices, then drain off the fat through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Save the fat or freeze it for later!
Cover the goose with foil if it is starting to brown too much.
Optional: About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, add some quartered apples around the goose on the rack and baste with drippings.
At the end of the cooking time, let the bird rest for 30 minutes, covered loosely with foil, so it’s easier to carve.