Christmas Goose

Is there anything that sounds more traditional than that?  The words “Christmas Goose” conjure up images of a traditional, old world holiday dinner, like Bob Cratchit sat down to with his family in that Charles Dickens novel.  At least, until Scrooge screwed things up by sending over the old, overgrown, and probably tough & stringy turkey.

The Christmas Goose is a tradition we need to resurrect, especially if you are a hunter and bag your own birds…. or if you have a friend who is kind enough to hook you up.  Thank you Rob!

You’ll notice from the pictures that I didn’t do a classic whole roasted bird.  That’s simply because it isn’t the best way to prepare goose.  You’ll be seeing this a lot as this blog goes on.  The breast meat of ducks and geese is best served relatively lightly cooked, while the leg quarters and wings require longer, slower cooking to be at their best. My waterfowl recipes are often going to involve breaking down the birds and cooking the breasts and leg quarters separately.  All right, I am working on a whole sous vide duck recipe, but that’s a story for another post.

In keeping with the old world holiday vibe, I decided to serve my goose with a Cumberland sauce.  It’s a classic British sauce made traditionally with currant jelly, Port wine, and citrus, and it used to be commonly served with game.  However, classic Cumberland can be a bit too sweet for my liking, so I modified my version of it by losing the Port and substituting a dry red wine, and by adding in the rich, savory stock you get when you braise the goose’s legs and wings.

I wanted to serve the bird over a starch, something that would elevate the dish (literally since I’m putting the goose on top of it) and would soak up the juices that run off the goose.  Can’t have that flavor going to waste.  Stuffing would work, as would mashed potatoes, but after a little consideration I chose to serve a creamy polenta with it.  Polenta is less typical than the other two choices.  It has a rich, satisfying flavor with just a hint of natural sweetness that pairs with the goose and the sauce really well.   Adding sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and a little parmesan into it, really bring the whole meal alive.

But don’t just take my word for it…

Christmas Goose with Creamy Polenta & Cumberland Sauce

The Goose

  • 1 whole goose, cleaned and dressed
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • kosher salt & black pepper, as needed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 3 ribs of celery, sliced
  • 1 cup of dry red wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh sage
  • 3 bay leaves

The Sauce

  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs minced shallot
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup red currant jelly (or jellied cranberry sauce)
  • zest & juice of 1/2 orange
  • zest & juice of 1/2 lemon

The Polenta

  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs minced shallot
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienne sun-dried tomatoes
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup slivered fresh basil

Prep that Goose!

Start by removing the breast meat.  Then separate the leg quarters and wings, keeping as much meat attached to them as you can.


Set aside the breasts for now.  Pre-heat oven to 275°.
Add oil to a deep, heavy bottomed roasting pan or braising pot, and place over med-high heat.  Season the outside of the legs and wings liberally with salt & pepper.  Brown the legs and wings in the oil until well colored, 4-5 minutes per side.  Remove them from the pot once nicely browned.

Add the vegetables to the pot and sauté, stirring frequently for 6 minutes.


Add in the wine and broth and bring to a simmer, and reduce the liquid to 3/4 of its original volume.

Return the duck to the pot, resting the pieces on top of the vegetables.  Ideally, the leg quarters and wings will be sitting in the liquid, but won’t be covered by it.  Add the herbs on top, then cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil.

Cook it in a 275° oven for 4 hours.

Remove the goose from the pot. Be careful, as it will be tender, and you want to try to keep those sections intact.  Set the goose aside for now.  Strain the vegetables and herbs out of the remaining liquid.

Discard the vegetables, but keep that stock.  It will have a layer of fat on top of it, and you are going to want to skim as much of that off as possible.  I HIGHLY recommend, nay, INSIST that you save that fat.  Duck and goose fat is among the most prized ingredients in the culinary world.  Not sure what to do with it?  You can freeze it for now.  Then just keep reading this blog.  I’ll have ideas for you.

Make that Sauce!

In a small sauce pot, sauté the shallots in the butter over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Carefully whisk in the flour. Stir that well while cooking 1 minute, then slowly whisk in the wine, being careful to break up any lumps of flour.
Reduce the heat to medium low, then add in the jelly, citrus, and the stock you got from cooking the legs.  Bring the sauce to a low simmer, and give it some time to thicken, stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper if needed.

Make that Polenta!

In a medium sauce pan, sauté the shallots & garlic in butter over medium heat for 3 minutes.  Add in the sun-dried tomatoes, salt, pepper, & broth.  Bring this to a simmer, and reduce the heat to medium low.   Slowing pour in the corn meal while continuously stirring to avoid lumps.
Continue to stir frequently as the polenta cooks.  Once it thickens to the consistency of pancake batter, about 6-8 minutes, reduce the heat to low, and stir in the cream, cheese, and basil.
Continue to cook another 8 minutes.  The finished dish should be slightly thinner than mashed potatoes.

Let’s bring it home!

Preheat your oven to 350°.
Slightly score a few slits in the skin of the goose breasts. Try to cut into the skin without cutting into the meat if you can.  Liberally season the outside of the breasts with salt & pepper.

Add one Tbs of oil to a large, oven safe sauté pan, and place it over medium high heat.   Add the goose breasts, skin side down.  Sauté them until the skin becomes crispy and brown.  This will vary from bird to bird, but it should be around 12-15 minutes.

Flip the breasts over, then add the legs and wings to the pan, skin (or side with the most skin) down.  Move the pan to the oven and roast the goose until the leg skin has begun to crisp, and the breast meat is medium rare.  If you are using a probe thermometer to check, that is 125°.

Again, the amount of roasting time will vary from bird to bird, and oven to oven.  In my home kitchen, 15 minutes on the stove top, crisping the skin, followed by another 15 minutes in a 350° oven, left me with perfectly medium rare breast meat.

Now you just need to plate up dinner before it’s time to eat.  The polenta makes a great base, and any juices that run off the goose will only make it tastier.  Pre-slicing the breast meat, or at least some of it, makes serving easier, plus it gives you an added chance to locate stray shot.

A quick drizzle of the Cumberland sauce over the platter, and it’s time for a Merry Christmas.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Goose

    1. Hi John,

      You want the breasts to be 132°-135° internal temp. The legs of course will be full oven temp for hours of cooking, so they are not a concern.

      Thank you!

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