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Goose Up Any Special Meal, Even If It’s Not Christmas

Roasted goose. Credit: Monica-photo/iStock

Roasted goose. Credit: Monica-photo/iStock

Classic holiday dishes are often associated with a specific religious holiday or cultural tradition. Sometimes this is so much so that meals get a bit typecast, like pumpkin pie that shows up only at Thanksgiving. But if you’re looking for that special dish that shakes up tradition or even suits a family with multiple religions or no religious tradition, consider serving goose.

Goose is a marvelous choice. There is, after all, the Christmas goose. And in the Middle Ages goose became popular among Jews and Muslims who either lived in Christian lands or who had converted, because goose meat can often be substituted for pork.

Because it is the holidays after all, the goose should be done up a bit special and I think this recipe from the region of Calabria at the toe of Italy’s boot would fit the bill for atheists and agnostics. If you’re anything else, adjust the recipe accordingly.

A Gorgeous Goose

Typically, this preparation called oca ripiena all’acqua di mare would be made with capon or chicken, but it works quite nicely with goose. The final result is a gorgeous mahogany-colored bird with crisp skin, succulent meat and a scrumptious stuffing. It’s perfect accompanied by asparagus with cream sauce.

If you don’t actually have access to clean seawater — and I can’t imagine anyone reading this will — then use bottled water salted with sea salt.

Stuffed Goose Cooked With Seawater

Serves 6


One 10-pound young goose (save the goose innards)

2 cups water

1 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed, meat crumbled

¼ pound chicken liver, chopped

½ pound stale or lightly toasted French or Italian bread, diced

2 large eggs, beaten

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

3 ounces pancetta, chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Clean seawater or bottled water salted with sea salt as needed


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Clean the goose, removing and saving the fat at the opening to the body cavity for another use. Tuck the wings close to the body and tie off tightly with kitchen twine. Do not salt the goose or stuffing because there will be enough salt in the sausage and the seawater basting.

3. Place the goose neck, gizzards and heart in a saucepan with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes, remove the gizzards and heart and chop. Set aside. Continue cooking the neck if desired with more water and save the broth for another use. Chop the goose liver.

4. Place the goose liver, sausage and chicken liver in a mixing bowl and mush together with your hands. Transfer to a saucepan and turn the heat to high and brown the sausage, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage mixture to a mixing bowl and mix it with the bread, eggs, black pepper, fennel seeds, rosemary, pancetta, garlic and Marsala. Stuff the goose and truss the legs. Brush the bird with the olive oil.

5. Place the bird on a rack in a roasting pan and cook until golden and the internal temperature reaches 170 F, 1¾ to 2½ hours, basting occasionally with seawater, which will have the effect of salting the bird too.

The goose is done when a skewer stuck into the meat below the leg releases juice that runs white. Make your final decision on doneness by using the meat thermometer stuck in the breast. Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes, then carve and serve.

Top photo: Roasted goose. Credit: Monica-photo / iStockphoto

Zester Daily contributor Clifford A. Wright won the James Beard/KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year Award and the James Beard Award for the Best Writing on Food in 2000 for "A Mediterranean Feast." His latest book is "One-Pot Wonders" (Wiley).