How My Goose Was Cooked -- On New Year's Eve!

Roast goose on the table.

My Huffington Post readers may recall that come the holiday season I enjoy preparing several turkeys for my friends and neighbors. I always experiment with new and seemingly strange ways to cook the birds, i.e. this year I steamed a large turkey for three hours in the Chinese style (at Jacques Pepin's suggestion in the New York Times), finishing it off in a blazing 450 degree oven for 20 or so minutes 'til it bronzed nicely. The flesh was silky soft and delicious, the skin crisp. Still, I have found that my favorite way of preparing the fowl is best for me... by microwaving it for 30-40 minutes (yes!) and then sprinkling it with olive oil, various spices, finishing it in a hot oven until it is golden, a wonderful new method. I love duck but don't bother to roast them myself any more since I can stop at my favorite little Chinese deli/restaurant, Hop Woo at Olympic and Sepulveda, and pick up a whole roast Chinese duck (head still attached) for about $20+ from where it's hanging on a hook in the deli. But this year I longed for a new bird experience... a Roast Goose, the traditional fowl for Dickensian holiday feasts unmemorable. One of the lasting impressions of my travel life is the visit I made to the Goose Village outside of Hong Kong. You take the subway to the end of the line, a short bus ride to a village street lined on both sides with dozens of goose restaurants, each specializing in a different way to serve the bird. An amazing experience. So this year was to be the time when I cooked my goose, so to speak.

Several geese in the oven at BierBeisl.

When I saw that the fabulous new Beverly Hills-based Austrian restaurant, BierBeisl (9699 Little Santa Monica Blvd, (310) 271-7274), was offering a goose dinner for New Year's Eve, I stopped by there Friday afternoon to consult with the brilliant 27-year-old chef, Bernard Mairinger, on how he was cooking his goose. He told me that he was getting fresh 15-pound geese from a small farm in Northern California, while I mentioned that my goose was a frozen 12-pound bird from my Pavilion's market on Robertson, for $72, much less than he was paying. I defrosted it for three days in my refrigerator before cooking. He told me that he prepared his stuffing a day in advance and cooked it in the bird, while I didn't match such a feat. His stuffing was a hearty mix of white bread and brioche, apple, bacon, orange zest, thyme and rosemary, and the minced liver of the bird. He prepared the bird by rubbing it with salt and pepper, topped with coriander seeds, with a lot of butter rubbed on the skin.

Plated goose dinner at BierBeisl.

Bernard startled me when he said that he roasted the bird in a deep pan filled with a savory broth. (Not even on a rack!) The broth consisted of aromatic roasted vegetables: celery root, carrots, apples, onion, bacon, herbs and spices, roasted and then strained and added to chicken and goose stock. "The fat from the goose drips down into the broth, and I am continuously basting the bird with the liquid. I roast it for about two hours at 300 degrees, then turn the temperature up to 400 degrees and brush it with more butter while it cooks for 35-40 minutes mores. I let it sit for about 15 minutes before cutting it apart. Each diner gets some breast and leg meat, along with bread dumplings, braised red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and reduced sauce/gravy from the bird." A bargain at $65 for a full three courses.

Chef Bernard and my dinner companion Naohiro Yoshida, who had lived in Austria.

I was not about to attempt to replicate this dish as he prepared it, so I just pin-pricked my bird all over so the fat could escape, salt and peppered it liberally, and roasted my goose at 350 degrees in a deep roasting pan on a rack set in two inches of water. I continuously siphoned off the fat with a turkey baster, ending up with about a quart of rich goose fat -- a wonderful element in which to roast potatoes later in the day. I let the bird rest for 20 minutes.

I dismembered it, had a magnificent dinner with my gregarious cat, Pyewacket, and then gave my new upstairs neighbors-with-baby a surprise dinner of roast goose. And that's how I 'cooked my goose' on New Year's Eve. One final note: I don't understand why most people only roast turkeys, ducks and other exotic birds at holiday time, when we all love them so much. Whenever the butcher at my local Whole Foods tells me that he has partridge, pheasant, quail or pigeon, I am game for that game experience. Be a bit adventurous and you will have a marvelous, delicious dining experience. And that's what it's all about, isn't it?

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