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Restaurant lunch highlights:

LOCAL Digest: The cooked goose saga

Although the fried goose breast was some

of the most delicious meat I have ever tasted,

it was also the toughest. It was like chewing

on a fabulously tasty, rubber gasket.

 

Cooking the befriended, Crock Pot Goosilla!

LOCALDIGESTauthorBox9PTLast month I took a brief respite from the Local Digest to take my semi-annual fishing vacation. My boyfriend and I stocked up on sea trout, red fish, blue crabs, croaker, and catfish. Of course, when the hankering for Cedar Key clams and other delicious Florida seafood arises, we visit our buddies Lee and Scott at Northwest Seafood. But our freezer's looking pretty good until the fall.

This month, I'd like to focus on my first foray into goose cooking, which I like to call "The Crock Pot Goosilla",

Let me begin by saying that the following recipes can be used for chicken, beef, pork, and I'm sure other fowl. The goose I cooked tasted like a combination of beef and turkey, with a texture much like a beef pot roast. It was excellent.

The story of my goose started a few weeks prior when I had lunch at a local farm. They had some geese that had been around for some years (a "gift" from a neighboring family who couldn't keep them anymore – you tend to get gifted things when you have a farm), roaming freely. When the geese became too problematic for this farm, too, and they couldn't be kept out of the family garden, it was time for them to go. The farmers cooked our luncheon goose in two ways: by frying small pieces of breast meat, lightly coated in flour, and by slow braising the rest. I saw the breast meat before it was dusted and I thought we were having a beef filet appetizer: it looked just like it. They knew the meat would likely be tough and began the meal with the statement: "We know there are at least 2 edible things here: the squash casserole and the salad."

053013ValMIREPOIREThe braised goose was delicious and tender. Although the fried goose breast was some of the most delicious meat I have ever tasted, it was also the toughest. It was like chewing on a fabulously tasty, rubber gasket. I mentioned that the remaining, frozen geese might be good in a crock pot, so they gave me one to try out that theory. You tend to get gifted things when you befriend and help out your local farmers.

So I waited for the perfect Sunday to relax and enjoy some goose. Here's what I did the night before: I set up two crock pots, one for each goose half, which I halved again so it would fit. The first I called Crockpot Goosilla Mirepoix, and I put in the following in this order: 1/2 C olive oil; 2 C cheap chardonnay; 5 sprigs fresh thyme; half goose; salt and pepper; 2 large onions, cut into eighths; 1 large handful of small-stemmed celery and leaves, chopped; 10 small multi-colored carrots, cut into rounds. The veggies and thyme all came from Crones' Cradle in Marion County.

053013ValBeansThe second I called Creamy Crockpot Goosilla. In it I put in the following order: 1/2 can organic cream of mushroom soup mixed with 1/4 C organic half and half that was hanging out in the fridge leftover from a visitor and needed to get used; half goose; 5 small potatoes, cut into rounds or half-moons for the larger ones; 1 large onion, cut into eighths; 5 small multi-colored carrots, cut into rounds; 1 large kohlrabi that had been hanging out in the produce drawer way too long, cut into large "sticks"; a couple of handfuls of rattlesnake beans, image right, snapped and cut in half; the other half of the soup with another 1/4 C of half and half. Again, the veggies were from Crones' Cradle.

The goose halves (hereafter "gooses") cooked for twelve hours, overnight and into the next morning. I started them on "high" for two hours, and then down to "low" for the remainder. Not all meats will need this long a cooking time, so you should watch them closely for the level of tenderness you desire. You should also play with local and seasonal veggie medleys and find new ways of incorporating farmers' market buys.

The goose meat fell off the bone and although some was dryish and a bit chewy, it was no more chewy or dryish than a beef pot roast. In fact, that's exactly what the long strands of breast meat looked like.

053013VALgoose3The night I was cooking it, at about 3 in the morning (I cooked the gooses at my boyfriend's house) I got woken up: "Do you smell the goose?! MAN that smells good! Do you smell it?!" I still don't know if he was actually awake or not. It reminded me of Tiny Tim: "There never was such a goose!" :) He had never had goose before.

I shared some of the gooses with his dad. He decided it would be a good idea to start eating it while driving in his pick-up truck because he couldn't wait until he got home. He admitted later it was a good thing a cop wasn't around because of his inability to keep a lane as the strings of goose meat refused to cooperate by going directly from the container to his mouth. But he couldn't stop eating, he said, because it was so good. He came back by the house to tell us how much he enjoyed it.

My boyfriend became covetous of the gooses after tasting them and didn't want to share with anyone.

"But, when will we get another one? I'm 33 years old, and this is the first time I've had one. If that's any indication as to the next time I'll get to have one, there's no reason for sharing." he said

But I insisted and they were enjoyed by all. His dad managed to tear some away from himself to share with his friend (or she tore it out of his hands for him), whereupon I got a phone call to discuss the goose, some minor happenings about the homestead, and little else, which left me rather concerned since she rarely calls me unless she has an order of business. This was an entirely social call, which began with praise of the goose, and I was happy to receive this small, conversational gift.

My boyfriend's mom shared her portion of the gooses with two other friends of ours for an impromptu luncheon. She told me on the phone how much they all enjoyed their time together over that meal, and talking about all the different things that went into the stews. The story of the meal wove itself into their stories as they shared more than nourishment with each other.

So, you see, the gooses have brought big doins' around here, and we recommend you try – if you haven't already – the delights of crock potted local meats. All you have to do is some prep and some checking, and the magic happens on its own. This can also be done in the morning and put on so it cooks while you are at work, or it can cook overnight and be re-heated for your dinner the next day. But most importantly, share with friends and family good meals with good stories behind them: they bring us all closer together, and bring out good excuses to appreciate and interact with one another.

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If you are looking for some fun things to do this next month, you should definitely check out the Blue Oven Kitchens' event calendar and cooking class schedule. This Friday May 31st you can come by Blue Oven (1323 South Main Street) between 7 P. M. and 10 P. M. as part of Artwalk and the Eat Local Challenge Community Celebration and get some Sweet Dreams ice cream in local flavors (while supplies last) and put in for some door prizes (you must be present to win).

We also have Strega Nona's Pizza 101 class coming up on Saturday evening, and the First Sunday Cooking Class courtesy of Stefanie Hamblen of Hogtown HomeGrown fame this Sunday, June 2nd. Pre-registration is required and more information can be found on the Blue Oven Kitchens website.

053013SchoolOn June 8th, Forage Farm is hosting it's School's Out! Family Festival at Prairie Creek Lodge from 1 P. M. until 7 P. M. There will be live music, local food, kids crafts and activities, farm tours and workshops. More information is available on the Forage website.

Interested in finding out more about Blue Oven Kitchens? Please look for full updates on the BOK website, Facebook and through the GLOB of course! With this facility, we will create new ways for you to support new and expanding food entrepreneurs and small farmers who want to create delicious food products for your enjoyment. Email Val Leitner if you would like more information on how to volunteer your elbow grease, if you would like to become a sustaining sponsor to Blue Oven, or if you would just like to help us buy a stand-up mixer for our facility!

Want to know more about what’s local and what local means in our community? The Local Digest is a monthly piece on all things local in North Central Florida, from food to economics to environment to community. Local, you see, isn’t just a way of buying or a way of eating: it’s a whole system of the social, economic, and environmental values that mark the character of where we live, and how we seek to improve the health of those values. It is a column about sustaining our region and what we love most about it.

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