Here at The Londinium Project, we’ve been trying to be a tad more adventurous when it comes to our cooking. There was a time, not too long ago, when we often tried new recipes. We’d leaf through our several cookbooks and find something interesting and new, and plan to do it.
But recently we seem to have lost that sense of adventure in the kitchen. We still cook. Pretty much every day in fact. But we tend to stick with tried and tested recipes, ones that we’ve made so many times that we barely even need a recipe for. Anyway, we have tweaked them over time, so they’ve become our own recipes.
Add to that the fact that we’ve been trying to eat healthily more often than not. Which means our culinary adventures are somewhat limited. Let’s put it this way, we don’t need to spend hours slaving at the stove to make a healthy salad. We’re sure there are ways to be adventurous with healthy fare, but we’re somehow not that motivated.
So in the past months cooking has become more routine, something we do just because we need to eat. We eat chicken several times a week and have mastered the art of roasting it perfectly. Roasted cauliflower is often on our dinner plates. And we’ll make a salad.
But it’s the time of the year when diets go out of the window, so what better time to try something new? We read somewhere that goose was the dish of choice in the UK in the past, before turkeys were widely available and affordable. And since we just made a turkey for Thanksgiving, we thought we’d give goose a try. Also, we’d been meaning to try the roast goose with leek and chestnut stuffing recipe from our handy Williams-Sonoma Christmas recipe book for a number of years now. It was one of those recipes that seemed appropriate to get us out of our unadventurous slump. Plus, since it was just the two of us for Christmas, we could afford to experiment. If something went wrong, nobody else would have to suffer the consequences!
The first order of business was to order a goose from our trusted butchers at The Ginger Pig, which has become our go-to place for meat. We read the recipe a number of times to familiarize ourselves with the steps. This is a pretty involved recipe, and unfortunately we didn’t realize the extent of that until we started cooking. But we wanted adventurous and that’s exactly what we got.
We also decided against using bottled chestnuts and decided to do the stuffing the hard way. So we bought about 2lbs of chestnuts from Borough Market and sourced most of the other ingredients on Tuesday. We also decided to go a little rogue and add some sausage to the stuffing. Because in our books, you cannot go wrong with sausage.
On Wednesday morning one of us went to pick up the bird. And our first fright came when it barely fit in our oven. Goose, we found out, doesn’t have the same thick breasts that turkey does, so doesn’t take as much vertical space in the oven. But it’s longer, by a decent amount, which meant that we would need to get out our biggest oven rack and fit the goose diagonally for us to be able to get it in the oven. We heaved a massive sigh of relief when we figured out a way to get it sorted.
We also realized that our crème brûlée blowtorch was out of fluid, so we had to go out in search of butane, which we managed to find at Robert Dyas, close to London Bridge. By the way, that store is a pretty good find for many homewares, especially kitchen stuff.
These successes required celebrating, so on Wednesday afternoon we went out for a few drinks, starting at The Rake, moving on to the King’s Arms, just about making the 3pm last call, and ending up at our local, The Charles Dickens. What we should have been doing, we later realized, was starting on the stuffing.
Because come Christmas morning, we realized that we had severely underestimated the time it took to get this done. Just cutting an X on each chestnut took a while, and then the peeling part took around 90 minutes. Thankfully we were able to finish the rest quickly since it only involved sauteing the leeks and sausage meat, adding the bread crumbs (we used baguette from Bread Ahead, also in Borough Market, and left the pieces slightly large for added texture) and chopped goose liver.
It was a beautiful day, and with the stuffing done, we decided to go for a walk and see London from a different perspective, when most places are closed. Perhaps because it was such a beautiful day, there were quite a few people out and about. But definitely not as many as usual, especially since the Tube was shut for the day.
There were a few pubs open, but we decided to return to Southwark to be closer to home and went to The Anchor for a couple of beers before starting cooking. It was already dark by the time we got home, which is not saying much these days since it gets dark so early, and started cooking.
We knew that goose is a fatty bird, but oh boy we really didn’t expect this much. The recipe calls for removing the fat from the bottom of the pan every 30 minutes. And since we were using a shallow roasting pan, we couldn’t skip this step. We ended up with half of a large mixing bowl of fat! That’s apart from the packaged fat that came with the goose.
Three hours later, the goose was cooked, so we let it rest while one of us made the gravy, the other made Brussels sprouts cooked in bacon fat and we finished off the Hasselback potato gratin, another first but we were following a trusted source.
We carved the goose and were surprised that there really isn’t all that much meat. Don’t get us wrong, we didn’t go hungry! Not only did we have enough food for yesterday, but we also have around two generous portions of leftovers. But for roughly the same price, the amount of meat was nowhere close to what you get with a turkey.
What about the taste? It was good, but not phenomenal. We both agreed that it wasn’t really worth either the cost or the hassle, especially since the amount of fat made cleaning up quite a chore. Are we disappointed that we made goose? No, definitely not. We tried something new and have learned from our experience. Plus, the stuffing was pretty darn good, and we might not have made it had we not tried out this recipe. We’ll just have to use it with another bird.
The potato gratin was definitely the star of the night. Thanks Kenji for another winning recipe!