The Feast of St. Martin of Tours, or Martin le Misercordieux, is a time for celebration in many parts of the Catholic world. The feast, celebrated on November 11th, not only coincides with the end of All Soul’s but with the Fall harvest, a time when autumn wheat seeding is completed, when the new wine is just ready to drink, and with the beginning of winter preparations, which include putting up the last of the warm weather vegetables and butchering and preserving of animals. This is a celebration of the earth’s bounty, much like Thanksgiving is in the United States. Goose is part of the traditional St. Martin’s Day festival in many countries since the goose is a symbol of St. Martin himself. Legend has it that as he was hiding from the people who wanted to make him bishop, a honking goose gave away his hiding spot.
Goose used to be a standard Thanksgiving or Christmas offering in many American homes, but cooking a whole goose can be tricky and the amount of fat thrown off I think has put off some of today’s more health conscious cooks. I’ve learned that cooking a goose breast instead of dealing with the whole goose is a fast and leaner way to prepare this delicious meat, and a boneless breast is very easy to slice and serve. My butcher sells boned goose breasts around the holidays. If your local butcher doesn’t generally carry this cut, he might be able to special order one for you.
Stuffed Goose Breast with Calvados and Apples
(serves four as a main course)
1 whole goose breast, boned, with skin
6 large fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves chopped
12 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large shallots, diced
4 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
2 big splashes of Calvados (apple brandy)
½ cup dry bread crumbs, not too finely ground
6 big gratings of nutmeg
A handful of flat leaf Italian parsley, leaves chopped
1 large egg
Place the goose breast in a ceramic or glass baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the rosemary, thyme, about ¼ cup olive oil, and the white wine. Season with salt and black pepper and pour this over the goose, turning the breast over in the marinade to coat it well. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Pre-heat the oven the 425 degrees.
In a large sauté pan, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame. Add the shallots and the apples and sauté until the apples are just tender when poked with a fork, but not falling apart. Add a splash of Calvados and let it bubble for about 30 seconds. Let this cool. Add the bread crumbs, parsley, nutmeg, and the egg. Season with salt and black pepper and mix everything well. Drizzle on a little extra olive oil if it seems dry.
Remove the goose from the marinade and lay it out, skin side down, on a work surface. Press the stuffing out evenly over the goose and roll it up lengthwise, tying it with butcher’s twine in 4 or 5 places. Place the goose back in the roasting pan, skin side up. Add a splash of calvados to the bottom of the pan, stirring it into the remaining marinade. Spoon some of the marinade over the goose. Roast for about 40-45 minutes, or until the temperature in the middle of the breast reaches 145-150 degrees. Let it rest about 10 minutes before carving.
Erica DeMane is a writer and chef. Read her blog at EricaDemane.com.
Image: “Saint Martin of Tours by El Greco