“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.
“Please put a penny in an old man’s hat.”
— Old English nursery rhyme and song
Goose used to be the poor man’s holiday fowl, which is why, in “A Christmas Carol,” a newly enlightened Scrooge sends a boy for “the prize turkey … the big one” at the poulterer’s on the next street for the Cratchits’ Christmas dinner. But this, along with much else, has changed since Dickens’ time, and with turkey now an everyday sandwich filler, many people are turning to other types of poultry this season.
Tim Jensen, owner of Village Meat &Wine at 5025 S. Eastern Ave., said he goes through 10 or 15 cases of geese at this time of year, and they’re packed four to a case. “It’s something different,” he said. “It’s a changeup from beef,” which he said is the No. 1 Christmas beast overall, primarily in the form of standing rib roasts.
Jensen orders 6- to 8-pound geese, which he said is a more accessible size than the birds that can reach 10 to 14 pounds.
“They’re fatty, but they’re pretty easy,” he said. “I refer people to Cooks.com. There’s a lot of options out there on how to sear the skin, how to sear the fat, how to catch the fat,” which some cooks like to save for other uses.
Among other fowl, Jensen also sells duck, pheasant, guinea hens and capon, and said Cornish game hens also are popular at this time of year.
Ron Lutz, owner of The Butcher Block, with three stores around the valley, agreed that his customers like to gobble goose.
“That’s a big one for Christmas,” Lutz said. “It’s a popular tradition.”
Lutz said his geese run 9 to 12 pounds, and he also has capons, at 6 to 9 pounds, and pheasants, which are 3 to 4 pounds. And quail, he said, which run about four to a pound. Overall, he said, they’re about twice the price of chicken.
Geese and capon, which serve multiple people, are not usually found in restaurants, but Las Vegas chefs use other smaller poultry. Marc Vetri, whose Vetri Cucina opened recently on the top floor of the Palms, serves a stuffed guinea hen with mushrooms.
“It has a little more flavor than regular chicken,” Vetri said. He said he likes goose and duck but doesn’t think of them in the same vein as guinea hen.
“The others are red meat-ish,” he said. “Definitely a certain level of, like, wildness.”
He pounds the guinea hen breast until slightly thin, then rolls it around forcemeat (made with the bird’s thighs plus fatback, pistachios and seasonings including nutmeg), prosciutto and foie gras. It’s rolled, wrapped in nettinglike caul fat, seared and roasted.
“We’ve got a lot of flavor going on there,” Vetri said. “It was one of the first dishes that I made at the original Vetri” in Philadelphia. “It’s one of the things that stuck.”
Gerard Morgan, chef at Beauty &Essex in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, is doing a variation of duck a l’orange for Christmas Eve and Christmas.
“Duck is more of a Christmas dish,” Morgan said. “I love duck, and it gives us a more traditional look back on Christmas. I want to showcase what we’re doing; Beauty &Essex doesn’t always do the traditional aspects.”
His version of duck a l’orange has the meat rolled into a cylinder, then served on a creamy polenta flavored with orange, five-spice mix, blood orange chips and frisee.
Morgan said he prepared a lot of pheasants when he cooked in Florida, especially in the winter.
“It’s not too gamy,” he said. “Almost a sweet flavor. And we did white Alba truffle shaved on it.”
Ronnie Rainwater, chef de cuisine at Delmonico Steakhouse in The Venetian, is going down the size scale for Christmas with a duo of quail.
“This is the first year we’ve done quail for Christmas,” he said. “I’ve been trying something a little bit different, trying to stay with our Southern roots a little bit — something kind of hearty, something kind of homey, which is what the holidays for me is all about.
“We do the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving, and by the time Christmas comes, we’re all turkeyed out.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.
1 goose, 9 to 11 pounds
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped celery
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups dry white wine
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
Peelings from 1 green apple (optional)
6 whole cloves
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked, cleaned, and coarsely chopped, liquid strained and reserved
1 1/2 cups dried cherries
1/2 cup Armagnac
4 tablespoons red currant jelly
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Remove giblets and neck from cavity, pull off any loose fat and cut off first two wing joints, if still attached; reserve all. Wash goose, pat dry, tie legs together, prick skin all over, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Put loose fat in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and render about 3 tablespoons of liquid fat. Remove and discard remaining fat (or save for another use). Add giblets, wing pieces, neck and chopped vegetables to pan. Saute until vegetables are browned, 7 to 8 minutes, turning frequently. Sprinkle on flour, adjust heat to medium and continue cooking until flour is lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes, stirring often.
Pour chicken stock and white wine into a pot large enough to hold the goose, and bring to a boil. Place goose breast side down on a rack covered with parchment paper and lower into stock. Add browned giblets and vegetables, parsley, apple peelings, cloves, bay leaf and thyme. Pour in enough water to almost fill the pot and bring to a simmer. Whisk 1 cup of the simmering liquid into the saute pan used earlier and deglaze pan. Scrape the thickened liquid back into the roasting pan. Cover pan and cook very gently, regulating heat if necessary, to keep it just simmering.
After an hour, turn goose over, being careful not to break the skin. (Wearing rubber gloves is helpful when doing this.) Poach goose for about one more hour, or until meat is tender when pierced with a fork. Turn off heat and finish immediately, later in the day or the next day. (Recipe may be done ahead to this point.)
To finish later or the next day, let cool briefly uncovered, then cover pan and set in refrigerator. When ready to resume preparation, remove layer of congealed fat from liquid. Lift out goose and bring liquid to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, then reheat goose in stock for about 10 minutes while preheating oven. Proceed with recipe.
To finish immediately, heat oven to 450 degrees. Remove goose from liquid, drain and place on a rack breast side up in a shallow roasting pan. Coat goose with 3 tablespoons reserved goose fat. Roast until skin is brown and crispy, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
Meanwhile, skim grease from poaching liquid and strain liquid to remove pieces of goose, vegetables and seasonings. Discard pieces of goose, seasonings and parchment paper. Puree vegetables in an electric blender or food processor, adding a little of the strained liquid, if necessary. Add vegetables back to pan along with half of the strained liquid, about 6 cups. Boil quickly to reduce liquid by about half.
Add porcini and their strained soaking liquid, cherries, Armagnac and red-currant jelly. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm until needed.
— Recipe from Martha Stewart