I’ve already confessed to my love of getting gifts. Any kind is fine, but give me food and I’ll be extra special happy.
When it comes to giving food as a gift, my neighbor here in Todi, Marisa, gets the prize. Marisa lives down the road from us, on one of the few working farms left in our area. It’s not a big commercial farm, but the family grows enough in their garden and fruit orchard to supply themselves. Ludovico, the son, is also a hunter and with his much loved dogs provides the family with game. And his special truffle dogs have resulted in some of the best gifts I’ve gotten.
The family also raises animals. Pigs and a few sheep, as well as animale di cortile. I’ve never been quite sure how to translate this term. Courtyard animals certainly isn’t right. Barnyard? What the term refers to are small scale animals – fowl certainly – but also rabbits. And Marisa’s cortile is chock full of ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea hens and rabbits.
When does Marisa come bearing gifts? Christmas of course. And, most recently, Ferragosto when Mario, her husband, came up the road with a huge, beautiful goose.
Since I already had planned dinner for that night, I quickly put it in the freezer. A week later, I thawed it out to cook it for our friend Edward and his family who were coming to dinner. And that’s when I realized: I’d never cooked a goose before.
While I”m fine with chickens, turkeys and guinea hens, when it comes other birds I get a a little scared. In fact, the last time Marisa had given me two ducks, I was all excited until I actually had to cook them. And that’s when I just handed them over to my friend Sienna, and made her invite us for dinner. That worked out perfectly!
This time around though, I decided to just forge ahead. It couldn’t be that hard, right?
And it wasn’t. I just followed Marisa’s advice, seasoning the bird liberally with local herbs (rosemary, sage and bay) as well as hefty doses of salt and pepper, all bound together with a bit of pork fat.
Into the outdoor wood burning oven for two hours, and it was that simple.
I guess what sort of scares me about geese and ducks is dealing with the fat. I’m always thinking that there is some special recipe that some how makes sure the bird isn’t just sitting in a pool of grease.
But as it turns out the fat is the best part. And the most complicated part of the entire recipe was adding potatoes half way through. They dealt with the fat thing just fine. And in fact, I can honestly say, that although the bird was beyond excellent – crisp skin, moist meat, all perfectly seasoned – you haven’t lived until you have had potatoes roasted in heaping amounts of goose fat.
So, I guess my new project is somehow convincing someone that the next gift I would like is just a big tub of goose lard.
Are you listening Santa?
Marisa’s Roasted Goose
1 Goose (3.5 kilos / 7 pounds)
6 cloves garlic
6 bay leaves
4 slices fatty prosciutto
Chop the rosemary, sage, garlic and prosciutto in a food processor until it forms a paste. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper and mix well.
Bring the goose to room temperature. Using a sharp knife, make slits in the goose, pushing the seasoning deep inside. Rub some of seasoning in the cavity of the goose too.
Rub the goose with olive oil, then sprinkle very heavily with salt and pepper, inside and out. Place the bay leaves inside the goose, and rub any left over seasoning on the outside.
Place in a hot oven (about 200C/ 400F). The juices should start running pretty fast. But to keep them from burning, add some water every so often. If the goose starts to brown too quickly, tent with foil.
After about an hour, add peeled, chopped potatoes, which you’ve seasoned with salt and pepper. Stir them into the goose fat and roast for another hour.