Roast Goose with Chesnuts, Prunes and Armagnac

This recipe comes from Bon Appétit, December 1991

While it is fitting that the Wild Turkey, native to North America has become the symbol of Thanksgiving, it is most likely that the Pilgrims feasted on Goose or Duck on the day. In the only references to the meal in question, Edward Winslow mentions, “They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week”. This reference to fowl could include turkey, but most historians tend think he means waterfowl. Goose had a long tradition in Europe of signifying the changing of the seasons, as they are a migratory bird. Sacrificing a goose in thanksgiving for a good harvest has roots in the Celtic Samhain, the Germanic Yule, or the celebration of the winter solstice. While the Pilgrims would certainly eschew such pagan rituals, the holiday goose had become such a part of English/Christian culture they would probably have participated in the rites without a second thought.

1 16-ounce package pitted prunes
3 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
1 3/4 cups dry red wine
1 1/4 cups prune juice

1 12- to 13-pound goose
1 orange, quartered (Not likely they had any citrus)
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground pepper
1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
4 bay leaves

6 tablespoons Armagnac, Cognac or other brandy
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature (supplies would have been low)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour (probably didn’t have this)
1 7 2/5-ounce jar steamed or roasted chestnuts
Chopped fresh parsley

Combine prunes, stock, 1 1/2 cups wine and 1 cup prune juice in heavy medium saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove mixture from heat. Transfer 12 prunes to small bowl, using slotted spoon.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Pat goose dry. Pull out fat from cavity. Rub inside and out with cut side of orange. Combine salt and pepper and rub inside and outside goose. Place orange, onion, bay leaves and 12 drained prunes in goose cavity. Tie legs together. Place goose on rack in roasting pan. Pierce all over with small metal skewer or toothpick.
Roast goose 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F and roast 30 minutes longer. Remove fat from roasting pan. Combine remaining 1/4 cup wine and 1/4 cup prune juice and brush some over goose. Continue roasting goose until juices run clear when pierced in thickest part of thigh, basting goose with wine mixture and removing fat from pan occasionally, about 2 hours.
Transfer goose to platter and tent with foil. Let stand 20 minutes.
Strain prune poaching liquid, reserving prunes. Degrease roasting juices. Add 1/2 cup poaching liquid to roasting pan and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Transfer to heavy medium saucepan. Add Armagnac, remaining poaching liquid and degreased roasting juices. Boil until flavors are intense, about 15 minutes. Knead butter and flour together. Whisk into sauce in small bits and simmer until thick, about 8 minutes. Add poached prunes and chestnuts and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.
Carve goose into thin slices. Spoon sauce, chestnuts and prunes over.

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