I contend the first bite of wild game should taste as authentic as possible. That first meal is as an extension of a memory—an unforgettable day, one of hard work and adrenaline and the calm sense of reverence following that first kill. In recounting the experience to friends and family, you won’t dare hide one single detail. You want to share the moment as authentically as it happened. So why would you wish for anything less than the real deal when initially tasting your trophy or having others flavor it for the first time?
With so many great wild chefs out there creating so many great recipes, it is beyond tempting to reproduce one of these amazing dishes beautifully depicted in so many cookbooks and blogs. Our mouths water at the sight of those wild illustrious colors and we can almost taste all the poignant spices as we imagine this wild piece of game, perfectly cooked, melting in our mouth.
When we have guests over dinner, those who have never sampled the game we are about to serve, we aim to impress. Perhaps we pull a favorite bit of literature from Hank Shaw down from the bookshelf. Or maybe, as a hunter or angler, we ourselves just brought home something entirely new and wild, something we have never flavored before, and we can’t wait to prepare it in such a way shared by expert wild game cooks.
In either scenario, I implore you: Stop right there.
Feel welcome to mix things up, but for that first taste test, think “minimalism.”
When writing this recipe, I debated keeping the brine as simple as possible to match the theme of this post. However, (A) I am a sucker for garlic in my brines and (B) depending on the diet and habitat of the Canada goose you kill, it may be necessary to neutralize some adverse tastes (hence the ginger and sugar). Brines aid in extracting blood from meat, so when you bite in, you are tasting natural juices, not residual—more than likely unpleasant tasting—blood. I do consider brines essential for any wild fowl, and, to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I cooked a bird without brining it first. Even a dry brine would work (my own blog post about that to come later).
While I am preaching about the natural initial taste of wild game, I most also state supplementing your plate with a few items is also an acceptable course. Pairing every other bite of your wild Canada goose with some fresh grilled fruit or even a rose wine puree can enhance the experience, but still doesn’t detract. Additionally, it is my belief fungus is the perfect flavor parasite, and will only accentuate its neighboring edibles.
Makes four servings.
2 Canada goose breasts, approximately 12 ounces each.
Goose brine (brined overnight, approximately 24 hours):
1 gallon cold water
1/2 cup non-iodized salt
1/2 brown sugar
10 ounces ginger
1/2 cup black pepper corns
5 bay leaves
1/2 large bulb of garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
Rose wine and yam puree:
12 to 14 ounces yams, peeled, lightly salted and peppered, roasted and pureed
1 cup rose wine
2 cups chicken stock
Salt to taste
8 ounces oyster mushrooms, sautéed
Watermelon slices, grilled
Nectarine sliced, grilled
Green summer squash, sliced lengthwise and grilled
Freshly chopped chives or Italian parsley
To brine and grill Canada: Fill a large pot or container with gallon of cold water and stir in salt and sugar until completely dissolved. Add ginger, black pepper corns, bay leaves, and garlic. Stir. Let goose soak in brine in refrigerator for approximately 24 hours then THOROUGHLY RINSE brine from goose, making certain to remove any ingredients stuck to meat. Heat barbecue grill until coals are red and flaming or propane is set to medium heat. DO NOT add any salt or pepper to breast cuts. Place on grill, cover grill and rotate 90 degrees once underside receives grill markings. Flip when second set of sear marks appear and repeat on other side. Cook to an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit (medium rare). Cover with aluminum foil and let juices redistribute before carving and serving.
To prepare rose wine and yam puree: Pre-heat oven to 420 degrees. Skin two yams (or enough to yield 12 to 14 ounces) and cut into approximate 1-inch by 1-inch cubes. (Pro tip: Storing yams in refrigerator overnight in a brown paper bag makes them easier to peel next day.) Lightly salt and pepper yam cubes and roast for 45 minutes or until soft. Heat a medium sauce pan on medium-low and add rose wine and chicken stock and simmer to reduce to half. Once yam cubes are soft—easily penetrated by a fork—and liquids reduced to half, add all ingredients to food processor and blend thoroughly. Salt to taste.
To prep and grill summer squash and fruit: Slice summer squash length wise into thin strips. Cut watermelon and nectarines into sliced (cut around pit of nectarine) and lightly salt and pepper all. (Optional: brush summer squash strips with melted butter.) Grill on high heat until soft but mush.
To prepare oyster mushrooms: Thoroughly rinse under cold water. If necessary, slice into bite-size pieces. Heat a small sauté pan on medium-low and add 1 tablespoon butter. When melted, add mushrooms and lightly salt and pepper. Sautee until thoroughly cooked, but, again, not mush.
To serve: Add a dab of puree to plate and create a comet streak with back-side of spoon (for that gourmet look). Carve goose with diagonal downward cuts and add slices overtop puree. Supplement with desired fruits and-or vegetables and garnish with either fresh Italian parsley or chives.