There are a lot of ways a roasted goose can go wrong—and it’s not light work to pluck and cook one, which is why I think a lot of people just breast their birds. However, all that work is worth it if the job is done right. A well-cooked Canada goose not only makes for a traditional Christmas dinner, it’s one of the most flavorful ways to enjoy a bird that often gets a bad rap on the table. The two keys are brining the bird overnight in a gallon of water mixed with a cup of kosher salt, and not overcooking the thing. Anything past medium-rare, and the meat will be dry and livery. (And, yes, eating goose, duck or wild game—other than pig or bear—cooked medium-rare, or even rare is completely safe. I, and thousands of other people, do it all the time and we ain’t dead yet.)
I like to roast smaller birds, like the Lesser Canadas we sometimes get here in western Nebraska. They’re easier to pluck, and they require a shorter roasting time. I don’t give any times in this recipe, because it’s extremely variant on the size of the bird. The 5-pound Canada in the photo roasted for not quite two hours in total. What’s important is to start checking the internal temperature just after the hour mark and to pull the goose from the oven when the breasts reach 145 degrees. The breasts are then cut from the bone, and the bird is placed back in the oven until a thermometer stuck in thick part of the thigh reads 155 to 160 degrees.
1 Canada goose, plucked, dressed, and brined
2 to 3 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
Use a paper towel to pat the goose dry, then rub a generous amount of butter all over the bird. Squeeze the lemon and orange juice over the goose. Sprinkle the bird with Kosher salt, being sure to get a pinch into the cavity, then stuff it with the juiced citrus and chopped onion.
Set the goose on a rack set over a shallow roasting pan. Place the roaster in the oven. At about the 1 hour mark, check the temperature by inserting a digital thermometer into the breast meat. If the breasts have not yet reached 145 degrees, keep checking about every 20 minutes.
Once the meat has come up to temperature, carve the breasts from the bird and place them on a plate set on top of the warm stove. Tent the plate with foil and return the roasting pan to the oven. After 20 minutes, place the digital thermometer in the thickest part of the goose’s thigh. When the thermometer reads 155 to 160 degrees, remove the bird from the oven and cut the legs and thighs from the carcass.
Pour about 2 tablespoons of fat from the bottom of the roaster into a cast-iron pan set over medium-high heat. When the fat is not quite smoking, sear the breasts, skin side down. You want that skin to get nice and crisp, but not burnt. Remove the breasts from the pan and do the same with the thighs and legs. Transfer all the meat to a platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
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