Recipe contributed by Field Staff Writer S. West.
I love all that Ontario has to offer a hunter, and I do my fair share of deer, wild turkey, and ruffed grouse hunting, but deep down, I’m a waterfowler at heart, and I have been since my earliest days.
My father spent almost his entire working career with Ducks Unlimited, I was raised on “Know Your Ducks” pamphlets, I spent many hours as a youth hearing the grandiose retellings of the marsh and grain-field exploits of my dad, my uncles, and their friends. I was a tag-along to countless DU project site visits, and later as a tag-along to those early morning duck and goose hunts I had grown up imagining. Now, as a thirty-something man-child, I pine all year for fall mornings spent chasing ducks and geese, and the season’s end only leaves me wanting more.
I’m living proof that if you involve your kids in the outdoors, then odds are they will come to love the wilderness lifestyle themselves. Hunting Canada Geese is my truest and most crippling addiction.
But sadly, Canada Geese have a terrible reputation as waterfowl table fare. Far and away most people laud the heavenly Specklebelly, and they salivate for plump roast canvasback. Cranes, if only they were legal to hunt in Ontario, are apparently just so much avian ambrosia.
But not the common Canada Goose. Most of the time they are stewed and simmered until all semblance of ‘goosiness’ is drained from them. Other times they are crammed together with jalapenos, cream cheese, and bacon-wrapped so that the goose is merely a vehicle to carry the other ingredients. This is still ridiculously delicious after a hunt and these poppers pair well with a cold beer (or neat whiskey), but it could just as well be any meat in the mix.
Owing to their ubiquity, people call them ‘trash-birds’ or ‘sky-rats’. Most of the time they just end up with pork and bunch of spices in sausage or pepperoni meat. These are, once again, tasty treats, but I ask you “Where is the goose?”
Maybe I’m weird. I like the taste of a Canada Goose. If they are long migrators with a layer of corn-infused fat on their breasts, then all the better.
My buddies look at me cockeyed when I’m portioning out legs and breasts from the butchering, while all the rest just gets skinned and goes in a bag to be ground up. So I resolved to revive a simple goose preparation for my family and anyone else interested in trying it. The only thing esoteric about it might be the blackberry sauce. Is it a compote? A coulis? I don’t know and although a professionally trained chef is probably screaming the correct technical term at their monitor right now, I don’t particularly care, because it was very tangy, sharp and delicious when paired with the richness of these goose breasts.
This is so easy that it is silly, and once tasted, it will make you think twice about just firing all the Canada Goose you have into the meat grinder.
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Seared Goose Breasts
- 2 Canada Goose breasts, skin on
- 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Ensure the goose breasts are at room temperature and are patted dry with a paper towel
- If the goose breasts have a layer of fat, score the meat in a cross-hatch pattern. If they are from an early-season goose, skip this step.
- Season the breasts with salt & pepper thoroughly.
- Add the oil to a cold steel or cast-iron pan.
- Add the goose breasts, skin side down, and turn the burner on to no higher than medium heat.
- Sear the breasts until the skin is brown and crisp. I find this takes eight to ten minutes depending on the size of the breast. To get an even sear I like to ‘press them’ with a heavy pan, otherwise the ends of the breasts curl up and don’t get as crispy. Watch the breasts closely, because if they burn, they are a bitter bite to swallow.
- This part is critical: if the meat is sticking, just keep cooking it. When it is ready to be turned over it will release itself. Turn over the breasts and continue cooking on the other side for up to five more minutes, until the meat is medium-rare to medium. If you feel it needs more time to reach your desired level of done-ness, I recommend keeping them on the heat until you are comfortable, but over-cooking will make them chewy. This is also a good time to add any additional salt, pepper, or seasoning that you may want to freestyle onto the skin side (I prefer a bit of cayenne pepper, but that’s just me).
- Remove the breasts from the pan and rest them, skin side up, on a cutting board for five to ten minutes. Tenting with foil is not required, as this may continue to ‘cook’ the breast even once it is off the pan.
- 1 pint (roughly 2 cups) fresh blackberries. Frozen will do in a pinch if fresh berries are out of season
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Zest of ½ a lemon
- 2 cinnamon sticks (or, 1 tsp of powdered cinnamon)
- Boil the water, cinnamon sticks (or powdered cinnamon), lemon juice, and sugar until it reduces by half.
- Remove the cinnamon sticks (if using), then cool slightly.
- Pour the syrup over the berries and puree until smooth (if you want to get all fancy you can also strain this through a fine sieve, but I like the texture of the blackberries so I left this a little on the chunky side).
- Add the lemon zest after pureeing, stir, and let cool completely.
- Once rested, slice the goose breast into strips, skin side up.
- Pour as much of the cooled sauce as you can handle onto a plate and then lay the warm goose breast skin side up onto the sauce.
- Serve with wild rice, some steamed green beans, and the wine or beer of your choosing.