For Christmas dinner this year, serve a savory, roasted goose — a fresh-from-the-farm bird if you can find one. Even though early American settlers had an unlimited supply of wild turkey, old European custom prevailed at holiday dinners, especially with the roasting of the Christmas goose.
Geese mate for life and are an ancient, long-lived species. In early spring and late autumn, we’ve all heard the ganders’loud honking from migrating wild geese — big birds with hard-snapping bills. Domesticated flocks arriving seasonally from Europe made good watch-geese for our ancestors and are effective as such today. An annual hatch of goslings and a smooth fat egg each day came from the goose. And, a mere couple of centuries ago, official written word was impossible without quill pens made from goose tail and wing feathers — and the well-equipped bridal chest contained comforter, pillow and slippers filled with goose down. Goose fat gave water repellence as well as shine to boots, and mothers rubbed it onto the chests of sick and coughing children.
Goose or duck is prepared for roasting much like a turkey. Instead of bread stuffing, try a quartered apple and an onion, a stalk of celery with salt, pepper, garlic and herbs. Water birds have an insulating layer of fat just beneath their skin, so do make sure to prick holes with a fork all over so the valuable and delicious fat can render out into the roasting pan. Duck and goose fat are semisolid at room temperature and store well refrigerated in jars. Their more than half monounsaturated fat is where the antimicrobial effect resides. Remember, unlike most vegetable and seed oils, animal fats can take really high heat and not become dangerously damaged. Goose fat drippings may be used in many baking recipes and produces the finest fried potatoes you’ll ever eat.
Goose and duck fat is a staple delicacy in the Gascony region of southwest France where a decade long epidemiological study concluded that the Gascon diet is higher in saturated fat than that of any other group of people in the industrialized world. These descendents of the Three Musketeers produce much of the world’s foie gras, the fattened livers of ducks and geese. They slather their bread with duck and goose fat; they snack on fried duck skin and eat twice as much foie gras as even the rest of their country folk — fifty times as much as Americans. The Gascons cook everything in duck fat and eat foie gras on Sundays, and live long, robust lives.
This is termed “the French paradox” by nutritionists still subscribing to the lipid hypothesis that consumption of animal fat causes heart disease. Mary G. Enig, author of Know Your Fats and many research papers refuting this claim, is joined by an ever increasing number of professionals. Food with good fat is so warm and comforting that I find the information linking statin drugs and depression particularly relevant at Christmas when the days are short and the nights long and cold.
My wish is that St. Nick (interestingly, a native of Turkey) might bring a gaggle of geese to American farmers this holiday season … six geese a-laying as the song says.
Happy Christmas to all from Lynn.
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