There is a new expressway that runs over the dual lane road we used to get around when I was a kid. I am realizing now that we call this the “new” road but it has been there for years. Maybe even a decade or more. You can fly down the new road and reach your destination in a few moments. Over the break I drove from Baltimore back to Delaware and took the new road home when I got off of I-95. I’ve never done it before, but was in a hurry to get to my parents’ place. The old road runs beneath the new one, at least in parts heading south from the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. My night vision is getting more questionable these days but in the periphery I can clearly see the lights in the houses along the old road below, flashing in streaks and dots where houses cluster together and in solitary flickers where a single house sits in a long black stretch of dark woods, or a field. On the homeward leg of trips when I was a child in the backseat, I saw these same lights. There are new settlements and developments now, along the road, but the baseline is still there, and the rickety glass windows in the old houses communicate the light differently than the fancy new ones, and I can easily tell them apart without the assistance of any conscious thought. It seems that the patterns are so familiar to my subconscious that I recognize by the sequence the settlements along the old road—that is Fieldsboro, this must be Drawyers. I am reminded of ancient armies led by the watch fires lit in succession on the hillside, telegraphing the way home. Each solitary man with a torch on his own hilltop, presaging the fires that wait in the hearth. Signaling: you’re nearly home.
This sensation applies to cooking as well. In thinking about the year of cooking ahead of me, I also think about the past. There is a baseline I recognize in my cooking in spite of the addition of ingredients unfamiliar in my home kitchen. For my grandmothers and my mother, cooking is not an exercise in nostalgia, but a critical daily activity. Food must be gotten onto the table. The family must be fed. I might use a splash of wine in the meat, or shallot instead of an onion, but I’m still simply making supper. In this way every meal is a homecoming, and a subconscious recognition of meals before, and a preparation for meals to come. The process is a part of a journey that is both familiar and ancient.
On New Year’s Eve, some neighbors brought by fresh goose breasts. I didn’t get to the camera during the busy meal, but many hands prepared braised cabbage and onions, biscuits, roasted potatoes, salad, and the goose breasts. If you’re lucky enough to have fresh game, you don’t need any pictures anyway. Follow the signals and you’ll be home free. I hope we all have a great year of cooking, eating, and living, linking the past to the future.
Roasted goose w bacon + red wine
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 8 goose breasts, split, boned, and skinned (this is the meat from 4 geese)
- 1 large red onion, sliced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 16 pieces of smoked bacon
- 8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 3 cups red wine
- 1/2 cup apricot, fig, or sour cherry jam or preserves
1. The night before or at least an hour before, dissolve the salt and sugar in a bowl large enough to hold the goose breasts. Use enough water to cover the breasts, roughly 2 to 3 quarts. Soak the goose breasts overnight or for at least one hour.
2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Scatter onion slices in the bottom of a 13 x 9 – inch roasting pan. Pat each goose breast dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Take each breast and wrap it, covering completely, in 2 strips of bacon. Tuck garlic slices between bacon and goose meat. Place each breast gently in the pan, leaving a bit of space between each one. When all the goose breasts are wrapped, pour soy sauce over them, and carefully pour the red wine into the bottom of the pan. The wine should just come up to the bottom of the breasts, so use less if they are getting covered up.
3. Place goose breasts in the oven and cook until they are cooked to about 155 F. (The USDA safe temperature for goose breasts is 165 F, which is our ultimate temperature destination in this process.) Pour pan juices into a sauce pan and cover the goose and allow it to rest. Bring the juices to a simmer over medium-high heat, and add the jam or preserves. Continue to simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced. Pass the sauce with the goose at the table.