(Today we present a guest post from a New York expat now living in Germany.)
Throughout many parts of Germany during the winter season, goose is prepared and served, particularly the Gänsekeule – the leg and thigh combo. Generally, you’ll get it here in Germany at a good restaurant, and if you’re fortunate enough like I am, you might even find it on your company restaurant’s menu. Your goose leg will generally be accompanied by apple flavored red cabbage, a few roasted chestnuts, and a couple of tennis ball-sized “Klöße” (dumplings made of potato or flour). You’ll also get a little goose stock-reduced gravy on your plate as well.
All of these ingredients make a nice, seasonal combination, but it’s the goose leg itself that has such an amazing taste. You don’t necessarily need to surround your goose leg with all these pre-selected, Teutonic sides. You could choose some other ones according to what you like. I prefer goose leg with steamed Brussels sprouts and potato cubes fried in the fat rendered from the goose legs.
Now, it’s time to find out where you can get a decent goose leg. It’s easy here in southwestern Germany at this time of year. Every butcher will have a few. Geese are farmed around these parts. However, it might not be that easy to find goose legs where you live. Some New Yorkers might be able to find goose legs at certain poultry merchants in Chinatown. Other New Yorkers might head for Citarella to discover they can order goose legs, or an entire goose. Look around, you’ll find goose legs.
So, you were able to find four nice goose legs for a dinner for four. Well done!
But now you’re thinking, “how are four people going eat all this goose meat. Each one looks like something Fred Flintstone would have on the table after a hard day’s work at the quarry.” Well, you’d be surprised. Those goose legs will reduce in size, believe me.
You’re going to need marinate your goose legs for the ultimate taste. Since goose has such a distinct taste on it’s own, we don’t need a fancy marinade, though. Let’s go with a simple combination of freshly cracked black pepper, salt, and fresh thyme leaves.
Make sure you rub all the ingredients all over the goose legs, both on the skin and on the flesh and bones. Put them in a bowl (or bowls), cover, and refrigerate. They should marinate for at least 12 hours, but if you start to marinate them the day before, you’ll have a terrific 24-hour marinade.
When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 430° F. Take the goose legs out of the fridge and pat them dry with paper towels (you can leave a few thyme leaves and course pepper grinds on them, but the pepper and herb flavor will be there anyway due to the long marinating period, so don’t worry about any of the pepper grounds and leaves clinging to the paper towels).
Place the goose legs, skin-side up, in a big enough roasting dish to accommodate them (don’t worry if the end of any drumsticks goes over the edge of the roasting pan). When the oven reaches 430° F, put in the goose legs for about 12 minutes, or until the skin begins to slightly sizzle. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Touch the skin of the goose legs. If the skin is tight and slightly hardened, you’re set. Make sure you don’t burn the skin.
Turn the oven down to 290° F (you might want to open the oven door slightly just to help reduce the temperature more quickly). Once the temperature is down to 290° F, put the goose legs back into the oven and let them slow-cook for about 80-90 minutes. When they’re done, their skins should be golden-brown and crispy-looking like this:
Take the roasting pan out of the oven, remove the legs, pour the drippings into a sauce pan, place the legs back into the roasting pan, cover with foil, and place them on the counter. Turn the oven down to “warm”.
With a teaspoon, carefully separate the upper layer of fat from the goose stock (if frying potatoes, save the fat in a separate bowl). Put the goose stock on a high flame (you may or may not need to add a little water, depending on how much stock you have). At this time you should place the roasting pan, with the foil covering the goose legs, back into the oven. Bring the goose stock to a boil and reduce a little bit. Thicken it, if you like, with a tablespoon or more of all-purpose flour (this is a delicious way to make the gravy, if you’re serving the goose legs with mashed potatoes). You don’t have to add flour though. You can just reduce the stock by half. It’s your choice.
Remove the goose legs from the warm oven, put each one on a plate along with your sides, put the gravy in a gravy dish, or directly on the plates, depending how you want to present the food.
If you’ve successfully cooked the goose legs, you’ll know when you cut a piece of meat off with some skin and place it in your mouth. You should experience a combination of pleasant goose skin-crunch with delicate tender, tasty goose meat.