Now that it’s bird hunting season, many hunters and nonhunters alike will find themselves confronted with surfeits of grouse, duck, pheasant, geese and other unfortunate avians unable to fly faster than the buckshot that brings them to earth. I’m not a bird hunter myself, but my neighbor Bill is. And Bill knows that he can count on me to relieve him of surplus from an overly successful hunt.
But I must be careful. Last time Bill brought me some geese, he asked me to save him a piece of whatever I did with them. I proceeded to invent a recipe that might jeopardize my future bird supply. My recipe was so good that now I’m afraid Bill will want to keep all his birds to himself, so he can make his own meals of Goose, a la Chef Boy Ari.
There are some who may claim it a stretch for me to say that I invented this recipe. Some might say that I merely borrowed or adapted it. I am open to this interpretation. After all, there is an old cliché to the effect that good writers borrow, great writers steal, and the same is true for cooks. And there is that famous quote by Isaac Newton that he could only attain his greatness by “standing on the shoulders of giants.” All I know is, I cooked it, and my guests left the table glazed and amazed.
So read on, dear reader, and decide for yourself whether yours truly indeed deserves credit for the alleged Goose, a la Chef Boy Ari.
Recipes are a great way to learn new things in the kitchen, but recipes can be prisons as well as wings. I don’t often follow recipes, preferring instead to wing it, but when I do, I inevitably learn some new tricks. And whenever I learn a new trick, I like to repeat it over and over and over. My newest trick is cooking meat and fruit together. I’m learning that by slowly cooking these ingredients together, the fruit unlocks extra flavors and textures in the meat, and they fall apart into one another without quite surrendering their individuality.
My little obsession started a few weeks ago when I got hold of some farm-raised rabbit. Scouring the Internet in search of a way to cook it, I stumbled upon a recipe for rabbit in prune sauce. As fresh plums were in season at the time, I forwent prunes in favor of plums. I also added eight whole cloves of garlic, but otherwise I followed the recipe. The result was epic, but I did not call it Rabbit, a la Chef Boy Ari.
A little while later, I wanted to cook some pork chops. Being as how it was apple season at the time, I decided to take a stab at that American classic, pork chops and applesauce. Once again I hit the e-waves, but none of the recipes I found really moved me. So I dusted off my modified rabbit recipe, swapped apples for plums and pork chops for rabbit, and proceeded to create god’s gift to pork chops and applesauce. But really, the only thing I did that was remotely creative was to cut the pork chop into little cubes, which offered more surface area for the fruit to interact with.
When Bill came over with two Canada geese, the only real question was “with which type of fruit shall I cook it?” I chose apricots, of which I have plenty in the freezer from this year’s crop.
As with the rabbit and pork chops of yesterweek, I began by cutting the meat into large chunks and seasoning it with salt and pepper. Next I dredged the flesh in breadcrumbs, then browned it slowly in butter in a cast-iron pan. Once all available surfaces were browned, I added the fruit. For a good-sized goose (about 3 lbs), use 1 lb of fresh or frozen apricots, all the cloves (whole) from a big head of garlic and 1 cup of chicken stock. Mix it all together, put an ovenproof lid on the pan, and bake it for two hours at 375. Once in a while, check and stir. As the apricots start to cook down they release water, which makes it almost soup-like. This is a good thing, and you want to keep it that way by adding water if it starts to thicken. About an hour into the baking I tossed in a handful of prunes, dried last month in my dehydrator. At this point, I came full circle to the original recipe for rabbit and prune sauce. Soon the prunes were plump and tender, floating around with the dissolving cloves of garlic in the goose and apricot stew.
I served it with wild rice, which I had tossed with pan-toasted slivered almonds and fresh oyster mushrooms, which had been sautéed in butter and sherry. The rice absorbed every last drop of goose grease, long after the meat was gone. I sure hope Bill brings me some more.