Chef Harper McClure of Brabo in Alexandria, Virginia wants you to eat goose this Christmas for two reasons: “One, it’s classic—it’s the traditional Christmas bird,” he says. “And two, it’s really tasty. It has such a rich, deep, gamey, earthy flavor.” Here, McClure shares his top nine tips for cooking a show-stopping Christmas goose.
1. Look for quality fat. “Goose has a large fat cap on it,” McClure says. “You want a nice, creamy, white fat—if it’s yellow, it’s been sitting for too long.”
2. Start in the morning. McClure likes to marinate the bird for six to eight hours before cooking. He also rubs his goose with warming spices like star anise, long pepper and cinnamon, which bring out the delicious gamey flavor.
3. Stock up on paper towels. “You’re going to get greasy,” McClure says. “Geese are pretty slippery when you break them down, so make sure you have lots of towels on hand to wipe down all of your surfaces.”
4. Divide and conquer. “The breasts should be served medium-rare,” McClure says. “So it doesn’t make sense to roast the whole bird, because by the time the legs are done the breasts are shot.” McClure recommends cooking the breasts like you would duck breasts in a cast-iron pan on the stove. The legs are best braised, confited or slow-roasted.
5. Remember to render. McClure renders the goose breast for 25 minutes on the skin side, then flips it and bastes it in fat so that the skin because crackly and golden brown.
6. Serve with Syrah. McClure’s pick for the perfect goose wine is a Santa Rita Hills Syrah. The spicy black pepper notes are terrific with the rich meat.
7. Keep the fat. Goose fat is a wonderful thing. You can use it in place of butter to enrich any dish. It also has a high smoke point, making it great for deep-frying.
8. Don’t leave out the livers. At Brabo, McClure will get enough livers from the geese he is preparing for a Christmas Eve dinner to make pâté, but home cooks won’t be so lucky. Instead, he recommends simply roasting them and serving them on the side. F&W’s Kay Chun likes to use the liver in a decadent port sauce.
9. Make the most of the leftovers. McClure likes to slice leftover breast meat really thin and serve it cold with fruit compote. He shreds the leg meat and uses it in a rich ragù with mushrooms. He uses the bones to make incredible stock.