Goose breast can be cooked just like duck breast: seared in the skillet then transferred to roast in the oven. Served with fruit and raisin topping, it’s a special treat.
Goose is a posh bird
Goose is an expensive beast and, at least in England, not readily available outside Christmas time. Even then it’s quite a luxury – it's a big bird but there is not as much to eat on it as on a duck, let alone a turkey. So the best bet if you want to enjoy it is to hunt post-Christmas bargains at the butchers’.
If you're lucky, you can buy goose quarters at a quarter of the pre-Christmas price. Roast the breast, and you can make a wonderful confit of the legs to put into a cassoulet or, cross-culturally, shred and stuff in tacos.
Goose for St Martin’s Day
Christmas was not the traditional day to serve goose on in a lot of Europe: it was 11 November, St Martin’s Day. That’s the Catholic feast to commemorate 4th century Saint Martin, a former Roman soldier, converted Christian and eventually Bishop of Tours.
His saintliest act seems to have been giving half his cape to a beggar on a frosty night. It sounds like sainthood was not a tough career choice at some points in history…
Goose was the traditional dish on the date since apparently Martin hid in a geese pen to avoid being ordained bishop, but geese gave him away by honking loudly. It ended badly for the goose, but it is a cheerful Halloween-equivalent of a holiday in Germany, Sweden, France and other European countries, with children carrying lanterns after dark and collecting sweets for a song.
In some regions the celebrations start at 11:11 am, on 11th November (11th month) which is rather a wonderful symmetry. But I don’t believe there is any relation between St Martin and the English ‘eleventh hour’ saying which means ‘the very last moment’.
What does goose taste like?
You’d think a goose is just like a slightly larger duck, but the flavour is different. Goose meat is not as tender as duck but it tastes mature, fulsome and rich.
It is as fatty as duck but – a little disappointingly for taste buds but good news for your waistline – the skin is not as nice to eat. Your choice, of course, but I find it too chewy and too thick.
How to cook goose breast
A goose breast is best cooked precisely like you’d cook a duck breast, a little longer depending on the size. The enormous amount of precious (for potato roasting on another occasion) fat needs to be rendered first by placing the breast fillet skin side down in a cold skillet or frying pan over medium heat.
After 10 minutes or so the skin should be golden and crisp; peek underneath often as you don’t want the fat or the skin to burn and spoil the flavour of the meat. Shift the fillet onto a clean roasting tray and the goose will go into a preheated oven for a few minutes.
Afterwards it needs to rest, and to be sliced across not too thinly.
What to serve with goose
Like duck, it also requires something fruity, sharp and sweet to cut through the richness and fat. I like the apple and raisin topping, easy to prepare and really complementing the meat.
Some fresh greens will go nicely with such a rich dish and perhaps just a boiled potato or two. Roasties sound like a heavenly match, especially if you should use the rendered fat but your arteries might scream in terror.
The fat must be saved, without question, but for another occasion when the meat element is a little lighter on the stomach.
More fruity meat recipes
Duck, just like goose, likes fruity toppings: oven roasted duck breast with pineapple is proof.
Or you can make a gorgeous blueberry sauce for the duck breast and put the leftovers on porridge. That’s the leftover sauce, not duck.
Guinea fowl, the game bird for people who don’t like game, is great stuffed with dried figs, dates and raisins.
Not just poultry goes with fruit: pork steaks with clementines are really delicious.