Happy Easter! Most holidays we make it a point to celebrate with a special meal. Sometimes we use it as an excuse to cook up an old favorite, and sometimes we see it as an opportunity to experiment with something new. Today we chose the latter and it was a success! A friend recently helped us acquire a large portion of venison and when he delivered it, he slipped in a ziplock full of goose breast that he had hunted last fall. For reasons unknown, it seemed like a great day to try out this wild goose breast.
Because it was new to us, some studying had to be done on how to prepare the goose and a couple hours of internet research did nothing but make me second guess the decision to make this our Easter meal. There were many posts and websites comparing the meat to liver, saying it was too tough to chew, and statements about how it was too gamey to enjoy. The reason behind this is that the wild goose is a migratory bird that travels for thousands of miles each season. In order to do this, their muscles are oxygenated more than 25% than that of your average bird which leaves a chef with a very rich and dense muscle to work with. Fortunately there were also some websites and forum posts that raved about the wonderful unique taste of goose breast and there were many recommendations to ensure success. The decision was made to suspend the gaminess and toughness by treating the goose in stages, and the result was worth the effort.
There are many theories on ways to take the gamey flavor out of ‘wild’ meats. A common practice is to use a buttermilk soak. Because our goose breast was going to be cooked on the big green egg, buttermilk was not used as it can give an off taste as the heat of charcoal pulls the milk from the pores of the meat. A salt water soak is another technique used to prepare ‘wild’ meat and extract some of the gamey flavor. We opted to use the salt water soak concept, but make it more of a traditional brine to combat the gamey flavor and to assist in keeping the meat moist while smoking because goose breast tends to dry out very quickly when being grilled.
This required a little planning as there were basically three stages of preparation. The night before cooking, we thawed and cleaned the breasts ensuring all of the ‘shot’ was removed from the meat (It would be a real buzz kill to chomp down on a lead pellet). They were then soaked in a brine overnight. Early Easter morning the breasts were rinsed and transfered to a marinade in which they soaked for an additional eight hours. When dinner time rolled around, the big green egg was set up with some cherry wood on the coals for some sweet, smokey flavor. The breasts were sprinkled with a home made rub and slow smoked. See the recipe and cooking instructions below for details.
The experiment continued indoors while the egg was smoking outside. We complimented the goose breast with a side dish of mashed red potatoes with sun chokes (also known as Jerusalem Artichokes). Oddly enough, these have no ties to Jerusalem nor are they an artichoke. They are actually a sweet and nutty vegetable related to the sun flower. They are best over the winter months of October through March, so we thought it would be best to give them a try as spring has already kicked off.
For a vegetable, we went with the always delicious grilled asparagus. We simply sprinkle with lemon pepper and a little salt, toss them in a grill basket and grill until there is a slight char. A squeeze of lemon for a finish and you have some of the easiest and best asparagus there is.
Overall it was an Easter meal to remember! The goose breast was very flavorful. The light smokey flavor was prevalent but not overpowering while it complemented the richness of the red wine marinade and natural flavors of the meat. The result was a not too gamey and very flavorful meat. Erin even commented that she liked it more than a ribeye! The sun chokes were a new flavor for us, they gave an interesting texture to the mashed potatoes and will probably be used again in the future.
Recipe and Cooking Instructions
- 1/2 gallon spring water
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 TBL black peppercorns
- 1 TBL dried rosemary
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 Cup red wine
- 2 TBL olive oil
- 2 TBL soy sauce
- 2 TBL worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp mirin
- 1 chopped green onion
- Peppermonkey All Purpose Rub (Blend of dried herbs, garlic powder, black and white pepper).
Thoroughly clean the meat. Trim off excess fat and ensure that there are no pellets left if the goose was hunted. Prepare the brine by bringing all ingredients to a boil then letting it cool. Place the brine in a sealable plastic bag with the breasts fully submerged and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 12, or up to 24 hours. Remove and rinse the breasts in cold water. Place them in the marinade again with the breasts completely submerged. Marinate for 8 to 12 hours. Set up your grill or smoker for indirect cooking according to the directions for your particular cooker. Using natural lump charcoal and cherry wood for smoke get the temperature of your cooker to 275 degrees. Once the temperature has stabilized, place the breasts on the grate and closely monitor the internal temperature of the meat. Goose meat will dry out quickly so you want to make sure you only cook it to the minimum safe temperature. The breasts were seared over direct heat when they were at 150 degrees. About two minutes per side should be enough to reach 158 – 160 degrees, remove and let rest. Carry over heat will bring the breast temperature up to about 165 degrees. After letting them rest for 5 – 10 minutes, slice thinly against the grain of the meat and serve.