Apricot-and Orange-Scented Goose with Roasted Garlic

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Dickens’s Tiny Tim wasn’t the only one clamoring for a fat, juicy roast goose on his holiday table. Alsatian as well as Central and Eastern European Jews who could afford a dinner of poultry to celebrate winter Sabbaths were particularly fond of goose, especially for the festive Friday night meal that fell during Hanukkah.

No golden eggs did these geese supply, but something better: streams of molten ivory schmaltz, rendered fat. Enough for delectably crisp Hanukkah potato pancakes, with plenty left over to be sealed in ritually cleansed jars for use at Passover.

Like most Sabbath foods, the succulent bird was chockablock with garlic, the ancient aromatic love potion enlisted to make sure the Friday night connubial duties would be performed.

The passion for garlic still smolders, but today a fatty bird bespeaks a déclassé cook.

There are several methods for removing most of the fat from a goose. The so-called Peking Duck technique—immersing the bird in boiling water to open its pores and then drying the skin, sometimes with a hair-dryer—reduces much of the thick fat layer. But it entails finding a pot huge enough to submerge a 10-pound bird, and worse, washing it clean of goose fat afterward. Not to mention the dryer.

I use a simpler method. First work your hands under the skin to pull out all the loose fat. Then douse the skin with boiling water, vinegar, and honey to melt some of the subcutaneous fat, and pierce all over so the fat will exude. Piquant orange and apricot flavoring rubbed under the skin permeates the flesh and parries the richness.

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  • One 10- to 12-pound goose
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3–4 tablespoons finely julienned orange or tangerine zest
  • 6–8 dried apricots (preferably tart), quartered, plumped in boiling water for 15 minutes, and drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cinnamon sticks


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • The reserved neck, wingtips, and giblets from the goose
  • ½ cup chopped shallots
  • ½ cup scraped or peeled and chopped carrots
  • teaspoons chopped garlic, plus 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ cup cider vinegar or apple brandy
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, or good-quality, low-sodium canned
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon peppercorns, crushed
  • ¼ cup diced apricots (preferably tart), plumped in 1 cup boiling water until soft (this will take about 30 minutes, depending on dryness of fruit) drained, and soaking liquid reserved
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange or tangerine zest
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Remove the goose neck, wingtips, and giblets and reserve for the gravy. Cut off and discard the tail-bone. Remove all visible fat and loose skin, inside and out. Then separate the skin from the body: starting at the neck end, gently loosen the skin by sliding your hand underneath the breast and carefully working your way back to the legs. Pull out as much fat as possible from beneath the skin, paying particular attention to the fat deposits around the thighs. Discard the fat or reserve it for rendering, as you choose. Pull out any quills left on the goose skin with tweezers. Using a sharp skewer, embroidery needle, or the pointed tip of a paring knife, prick the goose all over, especially where the subcutaneous fat is thickest, like around the thighs. To avoid jabbing the flesh, hold the pricking instrument almost parallel to the goose, rather than upright.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  3. Put the goose on a rack in a deep roasting pan and set the pan in the sink. Combine 6 cups of water, the vinegar, and honey in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Pour half of the mixture evenly over the goose. Reheat the remaining mixture to boiling, then turn over the goose and pour the remaining mixture over it. Little droplets of melted fat will begin to appear on the skin. Prick the goose again all over to encourage more of the fat to find its way out. Discard all the water in the pan and wipe the goose thoroughly inside and out with paper towels. Let it drain on the rack, uncovered, to exude more fat and air dry, as you prepare the seasonings.
  4. Separate the garlic head into cloves and discard the roughest, outer, papery husk, leaving the thin layer of peel intact. In a small baking dish just large enough to accommodate all the ingredients snugly, add the garlic cloves and scatter the orange or tangerine zest, apricots, rosemary, juniper, and oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the garlic cloves are very soft. Let cool until you can handle the garlic. Leave the oven on.
  5. Squeeze the garlic from the husks (discard the husks), and combine the garlic pulp and other ingredients from the baking dish in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.
  6. Dry the goose again with paper towels; it should have released more of the melted fat. Spoon the roasted garlic mixture under the goose skin, pushing it all over the breast and down the drumsticks. Generously salt and pepper the goose inside and out, rubbing the seasoning into the skin. Lightly crush the cinnamon sticks with a mallet or rolling pin and place them in the cavity. Truss if desired. (If my goose is extra-large—12 or more pounds—and its limbs, when extended, sidle over the edge of my largest roasting pan, I usually do a simple truss to make it fit more compactly.)
  7. Roast the goose breast side down on the rack for 1½ hours, pouring out the fat occasionally as it accumulates in the pan. Remove the goose from the oven, turn it breast side up, and prick the skin again several times. Roast, pouring out the fat occasionally, for another 1–1½ hours, or until the juices of the thigh run clear when pierced with a knife and the leg meat feels soft when pressed. (These are more accurate indicators than the internal temperature; a goose will often measure 170°F—well-done—well before the meat is tender yet still moist.)
  8. Remove from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 400°F. Prick the goose again all over. Transfer the goose to a large rimmed baking sheet or pan with shallow sides to trap the fat. When the oven reaches 400°F, roast the goose for 15 minutes longer to turn the skin beautifully crisp and brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for about 20 minutes before carving.
  9. While the goose is cooking, prepare the gravy. In a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the reserved neck, wingtips, and giblets (save the liver for broiling—the cook’s perk) and sauté for about 10 minutes over medium heat until golden brown. Transfer to a heavy, wide saucepan. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of oil remaining in the skillet, and add the shallots, carrots, and chopped garlic. Sauté, stirring, until the vegetables are tinged with brown, 8–10 minutes, then transfer them to the saucepan. Combine the vinegar or apple brandy with the honey, and use to deglaze the skillet over moderately high heat, scraping up all the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Transfer the contents of the skillet to the saucepan. Add the chicken broth, juniper, and peppercorns, and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer slowly for about 1 hour. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, pressing down on the solids to extract all of their flavorful juices. Skim off any fat. Wash and dry the saucepan and return the strained stock to it. Add the whole garlic cloves, apricots and their soaking liquid, and cook the mixture over high heat until reduced by about half. Add the orange juice, zest, and rosemary and cook for 3–4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a blender (in batches, if necessary), and emulsify until smooth. Taste for seasoning, and keep warm or reheat gently before serving.
  10. Carve the goose. Serve each guest a portion of the meat, topped with some of the irresistible skin. Pass the gravy.