I've always loved a roast goose for Christmas - there's something quite Dickensian about it, the way the meal conjures fond memories of A Christmas Carol. Last year, sadly, our goose missed the Christmas table and arrived on the 28th of December (that's what you call "on Caribbean time"). It was nothing that a bronzed roasted turkey and a beautiful roasted four rib of beef couldn't replace, but still for me it's just not Christmas without a goose.
Last Christmas my family had just made the big move to Mustique, and with getting us and our young sons adjusted into this new life, with a new house, and schools, and jobs, we lost track of time in the holiday season. So when the goose was late and Christmas poised to pass us by just as any other day, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to postpone the festivities for a month or two until we were fully settled and ready to properly celebrate.
As it turns out, the 25th of February 2014 turned out to be one of the best Christmases we have ever had! Spent with family and friends on Mustique's lovely Lagoon Beach, Christmas dinner somehow tasted even better with sand between our toes and the sound of gentle waves lapping at the shore line. There was something so special and fun in the contrast of a grand holiday dinner in the beautifully relaxed environment of a pristine Caribbean beach.
With this setting so far removed from the cold wintry Christmases of my youth, it felt only appropriate to add a few twists to the menu as well. Instead of the traditional smoked salmon, we started with fresh Tuna Carpaccio with lemongrass and ginger, a fine replacement and a dish that has now become one of our signatures at the Beach Café. Our fantastic holiday on the beach also led to the discovery of another new favorite - Christmas Pudding Ice Cream. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and in this case, it's certainly true. In need of a way to make our pudding last until our postponed celebration in February, inspiration struck when I was making fresh ice cream for the restaurant. The rest, as they say, was history. In the end though, I have to say the star of the day was the long-awaited goose, slow-roasted with honey and thyme... delicious!
This year our goose is traveling with a first class ticket and I hope to give him a ride home from the airport today. To give the meal a local touch I'll be knocking on the door of Stuart Ward (Director of Operations and Environment for the island) and his wife Debora Gould, the local bee keeper, for some fresh Mustique honey. After some time spent picking tikki thyme from Mustique's fantastic permaculture garden, we'll have all we need for the perfect Christmas goose.
Here is my recipe for the perfect centerpiece of a Caribbean Christmas - Slow-Roasted Goose with Local Honey and Thyme. It takes a while to prepare and you'll need a hair dryer but its well worth it.
Slow-Roasted Goose with Local Honey and Thyme*
*pristine Caribbean beach not included
Serves 6 people
- 1 fat goose (about 8-9 pounds)
- 1 13 oz. jar of honey
- ½ bunch fresh thyme (we use local tikki thyme)
- sea salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 large potatoes
Preheat the oven to 260 degrees.
Score along the skin of the goose breast 12-15 times with a small sharp knife, just cutting into the skin itself and not the meat.
Place the goose on a wire rack above the sink and pour over a kettle of boiling salted water; dry the goose with kitchen paper. At this point you can air dry the goose in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, or use a hair dryer with a cold air setting to dry the outside skin - this will take 30-40 min but it really makes the difference when crisping up the skin while cooking.
Once dry, place the goose on the wire rack over a large roasting tray and massage the bird with honey , salt, and thyme, making sure it is completely covered. Pour a little water into the bottom of the pan and place the goose in the oven.
Leave the goose to slow-roast for up to 4 hours, basting (pouring the rich cooking juices over the goose) every 15-20 minutes. Note: the basting is VERY important. After about an hour and a half of roasting, pour off the excess fat from the tray and keep to one side for the potatoes.
Wash, peel, and dry the potatoes and dice them into 1 inch chunks. Put the potatoes in an oven-safe tray with a lid (foil works just as well) with the fat reserved from the goose; season with salt, a little thyme, and a bay leaf before adding the lid and placing into the oven to bake along with the goose. Stir the potatoes occasionally - they will turn a beautiful dark golden brown as soak up all the delicious juices while cooking.
Once the goose is fully cooked, take the bird out of the oven and let rest for 20 minutes in a warm place in the kitchen. Be sure to reserve the juices in the oven tray to use as a rich sauce.
Now it's time to feast with friends and family. Happy Christmas!