Take a gander
Here’s what to do with that goose you wrestle off of Riverside
The best Thanksgiving turkey I ever ate actually was roast goose, served with potatoes fried in goose fat, an arugula salad, lots of Rhône wine, and a cheese course in lieu of a pie. I think of that Thanksgiving every time I see a gaggle—flying over my house every night about dusk, huddling just off the No. 6 green at the LaFortune Par 3, or resting on the great lawn (soon to be a vast playground) along Riverside, where they once flocked and I trust will return. Maybe in time for Christmas. I picture one garnished with pancetta and juniper, on the same sideboard with the stout and figgy pudding.
Unless you hunt, your access to geese is limited. I married into a family of hunters, one of whom once said, “I don’t supply game to yuppies.” There are frozen birds in some grocery cases but they will run you five times the price of chicken, sometimes more. Stupid money when fresh meat abounds—a tantalizing option for the gourmand who suddenly finds himself between jobs, or for the conscientious cook who eschews feedlot beef and industrial poultry.
None of the restrictions outlined in the state’s “Legal Means of Taking” mention the act of tackling in plain sight. (It is illegal to take your bird by “drug, explosive, or stupefying substance.”) The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife’s harvest season for migratory birds ends February 18.1 Given the plethora of geese, though, you could probably get an exemption under the Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator provision.
In any case, it won’t be easy. Not only can geese fly—most I know are aggressive. It’s fight or flight, and, short of a shotgun, you’ll have to move fast and with fury. I won’t counsel you in how to procure or process your goose, but I will say that cities from Portland to New York have offered Canada goose on the menu in their shelters for years.
Anyway, we have too many. They’re wonderful in flight, but then they land in droves. I’ve begun mistaking them for yard ornaments and elaborate wildlife art installations. I don’t recall this many Canada geese as a kid, and I did some wandering. We must have scared off one of their predators.
For those willing, I’ve taken the liberty of devising an efficient and quite tasty goose menu that should carry you through the week. If you have a serviceable kitchen and don’t mind shopping in aisles beyond Whole Foods, you can do this. Assuming you wouldn’t be bagging a wild goose off a public lawn unless you were desperate, I’ve tried to be budget-conscious. Nam-Hai carries fresh chilis in bulk. For super-fresh corn tortillas, go to the source: Tortilleria de Puebla (3118 S. Mingo Rd.). Supermercados Morelos (2119 S. Garnett Rd.) sells potatoes, onions, and other produce for cents on the dollar.
Cook’s note: I’m only talking here about winter geese. You need, and want, a good layer of fat on your bird in order to manage this menu.
Sunday: Roast goose with fried potatoes
Reserve one leg during your butchering. Season it with salt and pepper, wrap it, and refrigerate it (see Tuesday). Save the offal from your dressed goose and place in the fridge, covered.
Roast the seasoned goose (minus a leg) in a pan deep enough to collect its fat. Salt and pepper, toss in some sage leaves and juniper berries—or not. Fry some diced potatoes in a half-inch of the fat. Pour extra fat in a jar; refrigerate.
Strip the carcass of all the meat you don’t eat and stick it in the fridge. Place the carcass in a large pot with an onion, a few garlic cloves, and a couple of broken carrots and stalks of celery. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for two hours. Strain the liquid and refrigerate. Toss the rest.
Fry the other half of your onion in enough goose fat to coat a pan. After it softens, add short-grain rice and stir. Ladle in the goose stock, a cup or so at a time to let it absorb. Toward the end, add shredded cooked goose and chopped jalapeño to taste. When the rice is tender and the liquid thickened, add a knob of butter and a healthy sprinkling of Cotija, a crumbly Mexican cheese.
Finely grind or mince your raw goose leg, adding enough of the leg suet to achieve a binding blend. Season liberally with salt and pepper and grill over hot coals, or sauté in a smidge of goose fat.
Wednesday: Noodle soup
Heat two tablespoons of goose fat in a stockpot. Sauté diced carrot, celery, and onion until soft. Deglaze with a touch of vermouth. Add 8 cups of goose stock, then add a cup or so of goose meat and any innards (save the liver; see Friday). Heat until boiling, reduce heat, and cook for 20 minutes, adding 8 ounces of dried pasta halfway through. Taste for seasoning; garnish with chopped parsley.
Thursday: White bread dumplings
Remove the crust from several slices of enriched white bread. (Cube the crusts and fry in goose fat for some tasty croutons.)
Lay a slice of bread flat and, in the center, pile a small amount of cooked goose meat. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Pull the sides of the bread up around the meat and squeeze the whole into a wad, completely sealing in the meat. After few good squeezes, the bread will return to a doughy state. This may take practice.
Sauté with just enough fat to dampen the bread, rolling the dumplings around often to keep them from burning and sticking. Serve in a bowl of heating stock, garnished with a bit more goose meat (if you still have plenty) and a sprinkling of parsley.
Note: Alternatively, you could try simmering the dumplings in the stock, provided you knead your white bread sufficiently. It should be quite doughy.
Friday: Canada hash
Simmer two or three unpeeled potatoes in a pot until tender but not overcooked, about 20 minutes. Grate, peels and all, into a bowl.
Sauté a diced onion and a couple of chilis in a small amount of goose fat until tender. Add a bit more fat, then add the potatoes. Fry over moderate heat until potatoes brown and get crispy in spots. Toss in some goose and stir to mix. Season well.
If you happened upon a goose egg in your hunting, fry the egg to your liking in a bit of fat. Serve atop your helping of hash.
Fry the goose liver gently in the same pan until it firms up a bit; you still want some jiggle. Spread the cooked liver over a piece of toast. Season and eat with your hash.
Saturday: Tacos (carnitas ganso)
Fry a diced onion and chopped jalapeños in two tablespoons of goose fat. After they’ve softened, add shredded goose meat and sauté over higher heat until crispy, moistening with chili sauce.
Serve in steamed tortillas garnished with whatever you have around that makes sense—slivers of avocado, torn cilantro, bits of Cotija.
1) The full season, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website, is Nov. 4–26 and then again from Dec. 9–Feb, 18. (There’s also a September season for “resident” Canada geese, meaning our flock. Alas.) The website dictates seasons for a number of sport fowl, including the “webless migratory game birds,” some of the names of which are beautiful enough to inspire lines—the mourning dove, the Eurasian collared, the Sora and Virginia rails, the purple gallinule, the common moorhen, and the woodcock. For some very delicious reading, you might hunt down Guy De la Valdène’s “Making Game: An Essay on Woodcock”—you’re not likely to find a more artful blend of outdoor sport, food and wine, and literary restraint. Reminder: these are the regulations for the proper and legal taking of wild game, but I don’t suppose a goose recognizes city limits.
Mark Brown is the author of “My Mother is a Chicken” (This Land Press, 2012).