Sunday, July 31, 2011

Take a Gander at This Grilled Goose

The smell of citronella candles invariably triggers nostalgia for carefree summer nights with friends and family (and blissful freedom from mosquito bites). Last night, the hippocampal connections were reinforced as another wonderful memory was added to the summer mix: a night of grilled goose, aged wine, and good friends - and their dog - under the Somerville moonlight, hanging out next to the old porch piano and catching a glimpse of Henry the neighborhood rabbit hopping around nearby. (No, we're not going to eat Henry.)

The goose - two pounds of deep red breast meat - was given to us by one of Joel's co-workers, a hunter, in exchange for a recipe. The perfect opportunity for recipe-gathering arose last weekend when Joel and I judged the Cadillac Culinary Challenge and had a chance to chat with Chef Jonathan Waxman and Chef Jason Santos after the competition. We ended up mostly following Chef Waxman's advice to marinate the goose for two days (olive oil, red wine, garlic, chili pepper), grill it on medium heat, cook it to medium, and let it rest before slicing across the grain. (Chef Santos had recommended simply seasoning it with salt and pepper and cooking it over low heat in cast iron, letting it cook in the fat drippings.)

We imagined goose would pair well with berries, so we chose a favorite sweet, cheap wine for the marinade: Jam Jar, a South African shiraz we discovered thanks to a wine and chocolate course we took awhile back. We used what was left of the bottle as a simple wine reduction to drizzle over the goose.

For sides, we threw together a salad with vegetables from our CSA, and we made Hasselback potatoes with pesto, based on this recipe. The potatoes that came with the CSA were Yukon gold, so we used those, but in the future, a sturdier potato like a russet would be a better choice - much easier to slice properly. Despite some slicing errors, these potatoes were gorgeous and delicious, and I plan on making this recipe again and again. It's endlessly customizable; plenty of toppings would work well, and more than just garlic and butter could be hidden between the slices. Fresh herbs might be a nice fit.

We figured that a nice summer night with friends and an unusual meat provided the perfect opportunity to break open a bottle of wine I've been aging since the summer of 2005. For my birthday that summer, I visited some wineries in the Finger Lakes; I was living in Rochester, New York at the time. On a whim, I decided to buy a wine to age for five years. At one of the wineries, Standing Stone, they recommended that year's Pinnacle, a blend of bordeaux, as a wine that would age well by 2010. I didn't get around to opening the bottle last year, so I've been waiting for the right occasion.

For a summer that has not been nearly as relaxing as I'd hoped, there's no better interruption to a busy schedule than a dinner out on the back porch with great friends and great food. As the hours stretched on, I could barely keep my eyes open, but sleep is overrated; late nights like these are the most important ones, the memories-in-the-making that come drifting back with every future scent of citronella in the summer breeze.

Grilled Goose with Jam Jar Glaze

  • goose breast - cleaned, boneless, skinless
  • red wine - try a sweet one with strong berry flavors
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • red pepper flakes

  1. Brine the goose for up to a day. (We brined it for about six hours.)
  2. Marinate the goose breast in a mixture of red wine, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes for up to two days. (We used about a half cup of olive oil - just enough to barely cover the meat - and about a half bottle of wine.)
  3. Grill on medium heat until cooked to medium.
  4. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Slice thinly across the grain.
  6. Optional: drizzle with red wine reduction. (We literally just reduced the wine we had left - no other ingredients - but you can get as creative as you'd like with the reduction.)

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