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Report: Canada goose breast four ways

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A couple of friends and I came into possession of two pairs of Canada goose breasts (i.e. four skinnless boneless breasts). We ended up preparing them four ways and, since there's next to nothing on Chowhound about cooking this or similar meats and very little of interest on the Web (at least that I could find), I thought I'd post a report on how we handled them and how they turned out.

We'd been warned that the meat was strongly flavoured but we didn't find it very gamy. This may have been due to our not overcooking the meat (as a rule -- with plenty of exceptions -- the longer you cook game, the more it tastes like liver). Raw, the meat was a uniform, dark burgundy. It was also extremely lean, which may be why it was somewhat chewy despite our efforts to keep it rare.

The four preps:

1. TARTARE. Finely chopped with parsley, pickled milkweed pods, cornichons, a few gin-refreshed dried blueberries and a little fat from some duck breast prosciutto. Spiced with Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and a splash of the blueberry gin. Served as a puck topped with a fried quail egg and a side of shoestring sweet potato fries: a classy presentation.

Given the warning, we were a little worried about this being overwhelming. False alarm. It was no more strongly flavoured than beef tartare, and in many ways more intriguing, with a fresher taste and lighter, silkier texture. The gin tended to assert itself on the finish; doing it over, we'd leave out the splash (but not the ginned berries).

2. KEBABS. One-inch chunks of breast marinated for about an hour in a teriyaki-style blend of mirin, soy sauce, honey, orange zest and (locally grown!) espelette pepper, then threaded on skewers and briefly grilled and basted with the marinade. The remaining marinade was briefly simmered and served as a dipping sauce..

3. STUFFED. We butterflied a breast, covered one flap with a layer of finely chopped Moroccan black olives, shallots, fresh thyme and duck prosciutto fat, then folded it back together, secured the two flaps with a skewer, rubbed the outside with duck fat and grilled it until charred on the surface but still reddish within.

We were running late so we combined these versions into a single course, serving them with what could have been separate accompaniments: grilled baby bok choi and grilled rapinni. Despite being cooked more than the other versions, the kebab meat was actually a little tenderer, a fact I attribute to the marinade. The marinade flavours worked well with the dark meat, though the dipping sauce was too much of a good thing. The stuffed breast was chewy but very satisfying, the dark, earthy/herby flavours of the stuffing perfectly complementing the dark flavours of the meat. It was also the flavour combination that paired best with our wines: Domaine Tempier's 2003 and 2004 Bandol "La Migoua."

4. PAN-SEARED in butter, finished in the oven, sliced and napped with a lingonberry sauce (made from the pan drippings, chopped shallot, game broth, thyme, honey and frozen lingonberries, simmered together until the berries had burst and the sauce thickened). Served with roasted mushrooms and wild rice with water chestnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, garnished with chopped chives.

A satisfying prep that looked good on the plate. Though the meat was cooked just right -- crusty brown exterior, rare interior -- it was again quite chewy. The lingonberry sauce worked well enough with the meat (though I think it might be better with venison) but couldn't approach the stuffed version's synergy with the Bandol. A vibrant New World Pinot Noir or a northern Rhône Syrah that had aged into Burgundy berriness might have made a better match with this iteration.

The questions we're left with:
- Is there a way of preparing this very lean meat so that it isn't overcoooked but would be less chewy? Barding/larding? Marinating? Slicing? Stir-frying? Pounding?
- What would be the result of, say, cubing the breast meat and slow-cooking it for several hours? Shoe leather? Or would it finally relax?

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  1. I've had great luck with long slow cooking in red wine (even port or plum wine)...both in a crock and in the oven. After a few ruggedly tough birds, it's a sure bet. I'm looking for other alternates but this has been our reliable go to for years because no matter how tough or old a bird it almost always comes out well. I've also had luck with the pressure cooker but at the risk of hitting a toughie, feel like a world of medium rare has been missing! I guess I'm ready to gamble.

    1. I shoot and cook Canada goose frequently.
      I make the usual 'BB' and Coq au vin using the meat. Low and slow.
      One way I cook the breasts it is to marinade in salty water overnight.
      Into the freezer an hour before cooking.
      You want the meat to be firm but not frozen.
      Slice the breast against the grain VERY thinly. Like you're making carpaccio.
      When you have plated (hot plates of course) everything to go with the breast VERY quickly just barely sear the slices in very hot clarified butter with a few sprigs of sage or thyme or rosemary, (I like to use just one herb) for like a few seconds. Just to give the meat some color. The plates need to be hot though to keep the slices warm.
      If you get the timing right you'll have very tender goose.
      I make a nice hot 'sauce au beurre' and serve the goose slices on it.
      Roasted garlic mashed potatoes and julienned carrots. (I only use the outer part of the carrots discarding the woody core).