By Elisa Ludwig
Turkey, prime rib, crown roast of pork, ham, brisket. Somehow our holiday menus have been defined by a narrow set of main dishes. While we have nothing against these classics, every now and then we want to break out of the mold—or the roasting pan, as it were, and try something different. If you dare, surprise your guests with a feast to remember and not the same old same old.
If your people simply insist on being fed beef or pork, don’t default to the typical roasts which are always in demand and more expensive this time of year. For tenderloin: chuck top-blade roast or tri-tip steak. For pork crown roast: pork blade roast (similarly cooked on the bone but much less expensive) Be sure to call ahead to your butcher as these less popular cuts are sometimes not even offered for sale.
A more adventuresome route is to experiment with meats. Instead of that tired old turkey, make like a Dickens character and consider goose. Far more popular in Europe, goose deserves a revival here. Pair it with the same flavors you might with duck (apples, cherries, cranberries) and slip some root vegetables in the pan to absorb the melting fat of the skin as it roasts. Pheasant or guinea hen, both of which are smaller than the giant turkeys to which we are accustomed but have a richer, gamier flavor but lean meat. Or opt for not-quite-game but smaller and less commonly served types of chickens like capon, or Cornish hens, which can be portioned one per guest—shorter cooking time, but much less anxiety than waiting on a single large bird to be cooked.
It’s more than likely the table will include some vegetarian or vegan eaters. If that’s the case, stop humoring them with side dishes and consider doing away with animal protein altogether. Prepare a savory pumpkin tart, squash lasagna or mushroom wellington. In some crowds, this might still seem like a bold move, but these are bold times. Embrace the alternative.
Roast Goose with Spiced Pears
- One 10-12lb goose
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 6 pieces applewood smoked bacon, chopped
- 8 ounces breadcrumbs
- 3½ ounces hazelnuts, chopped
- 3½ ounces pecans, chopped
- Zest and juice of ½ orange
- 10 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
- FOR THE PEARS:
- 6 ripe pears, peeled and quartered
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- Zest of 1 lime
- 1 ounce unsalted butter
- The day before you cook the goose, place it in a clean sink and pour a kettle of boiling water over it. Pat completely dry with kitchen paper and let it sit in a cool draught for several hours until the skin is perfectly dry all over. Place uncovered in the fridge overnight.
- To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the onions and bacon for about 7 minutes until tender. Transfer to a bowl, mix in the remaining ingredients and season well. Roll into walnut-sized balls, place in a roasting pan and set aside.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prick the skin of the goose all over with a fork, being careful not to puncture the flesh. Season with salt. Place on its side in a rack set over a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the goose and rack from the pan and pour the fat off into a bowl. Turn the goose on to its other side, turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and continue to roast for the remainder of the cooking time.
- About 30 minutes before the end of cooking, turn the goose breast-side up. Cover with tin foil if it’s getting too dark. Check if the goose is cooked by inserting a knife where leg joins body – the juice should run clear and colorless, not pink. Once cooked, let it rest for 30 minutes while you finish any vegetables, roast the stuffing balls and heat the pears.
- To make the pears, place them in a small roasting pan. Put 5 ounces of water in a small saucepan with the sugar, ginger and lime zest, bring to the boil and pour over the pears. Dot each of the pear quarters with a little butter and roast in the oven, turning and basting occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until tender and nicely golden. If the syrup starts to dry up during cooking, add a little hot water to the dish. Serve the goose on a large platter surrounded by the stuffing balls and pears. Drizzle the pears with a syrup.
Recipe from https://www.dartagnan.com/