The Day Before Black Friday

For the last two Thanksgivings I have thrown down 11-course extravaganzas (links here and here; menu for second link here) which took days to make and hours to eat. This time around, we were to have the meal in Vermont, and I just couldn’t deal with having to bring lots of components and more than a few tools, gadgets, and plates to do it there. So I just did a straight-up all-on-the-plate at once dinner, using traditional flavors but swapping in a much tastier goose for the bland, annoying turkey. Taking a cue from myself, I cut the goose apart a couple of days beforehand and made confit with the legs. The breasts I dropped in a marinade of wine, salt, maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, and herbs, and then let them sit in the fridge for a day or so. The carcass became 6 quarts of goose phở, from which I removed the fat after it chilled overnight. A lot of fat. A lot of goose fat.

So we are now well stocked with a big container of one of the world’s great cooking vehicles. My grandfather used to talk fondly of goose fat; growing up in a shtetl in Poland at the beginning of the last century, calories were in short supply. Slathered on bread with salt was how he liked it. Made into a roux and then gravy with goose phở and local hard cider is how we had it.

I scored and seared the breasts until they were just rare, then popped them in the warm oven while I got everything else together. The confit, crisped and heated through, went on my now-trademark cream-baked sweet potato rounds with some kale wilted in the skillet with the crispy confit remnants. The sliced breasts I fanned over cider-braised napa cabbage with homemade bacon on a dollop of celery root purée from the garden. Some cranberry sauce in the middle because it goes with everything.

We had kir royales for aperitifs- with sparkling wine and blackcurrant cordial both made in the Hudson Valley- and then moved on to a couple of great Thanksgiving wines, both California Petite Sirahs. The first was a 2002 Carver Sutro, and the second was a 2001 Sirius. For dessert, pumpkin pie; I had made the filling here at home, along with the crust, so when we got to Vermont I rolled them out, filled them, and baked them. I made whipped cream flavored with local apple brandy, and the combination was well received.

It worked pretty well; I was particularly happy with the contrast between the rare meat and the confit. More interesting than turkey, that’s for damn sure. Next year I think I want to do it again my way, though.

As an addendum, it’s definitely worth noting that the next night we had burgers. There was some of the goose breast left, and a lump of the bacon, so I minced them both finely and mixed them into ground bison along with chopped scallions, salt, and pepper. Cooked in the fireplace over hot coals, these were pretty damn extraordinary. If I ever open something, the bison-goose-bacon burger will surely be on the menu. And it will be served with something very like the 1997 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet we opened to go with them.

7 comments to The Day Before Black Friday

  • Julia

    Oh. My. God. That's all I have to say. Outrageous. And to think this was what you did on the road! And the burger. That's so so so serious. (Guess I had more to say.)

  • Zoomie

    Your challenge for next year is to find a way to use turkey that pleases your exacting palate. :-) The look on Milo's face says it all and makes it all worth the effort.

  • lisa

    Ok, I was thinking of cooking a goose for Christmas, and now I'm inspired. Hope my plan comes together because I want that fat for roasting potatoes.

  • The Spiteful Chef

    My confited legs of heritage turkey (per your suggestion) were nothing short of amazing, and super flavorful. So I think it's just the commercial "torture turkeys" that are bland and awful. Goose, I've never made, and it may very well end up on our dinner table in the next week or two. Thanks!

  • Jen of A2eatwrite

    Okay… so your Thanksgiving dinner was WAY more interesting than mine. Just sayin'.

    Gorgeous. All.

  • peter

    Julia: The burger was stupid serious.

    Zoomie: Eh, or just go back to ignoring turkey.

    Lisa: I hope so too; you'll never look back.

    Kristie: I haven't had a factory turkey in a very long time. I think I just don't like it that much. Certainly not compared to ducks or geese.

    Jen: Somehow I think you're being modest.

  • [...] spent some time going back and forth about how fancy to make Thanksgiving this year. Last year was really simple, but the two before that were 11-course extravaganzas (2008, 2007). We have a [...]

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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