Wild Goose Breast Salad

On long days of cooking or testing recipes, I’m blessed to have a TV in my kitchen and I often have it tuned to PBS: Create TV. I’m not that picky; I leave it on and whatever happens happens. It may be Rick Steves. A stellar quilter whose name I can’t quite remember. Sicilian chef Nick Stellino. Cool travel woman Samantha Brown. And if God is good– really good — Jacques Pépin may make an appearance. Of course, I live for that moment and stop what I’m doing to watch. So maybe I AM picky. One day, making dinner awaiting my husband’s return from building a house for Habitat for Humanity , my friend Jacques came on making a duck breast salad. (Don’t we all feel we’re friends with Chef Jacques Pépin?! I know I do.)

Tasting wine in OR with good friends Lee and Pam Lehmkuhl

Now duck breast salad isn’t an unusual recipe for someone like Jacques, but this one included duck breasts without their signature fat cap. Hello! I had a few really lean wild duck breasts (thanks to my good friend hunter Lee Lehmkuhl) in my freezer, so I was glued. What the _ _ _ _ was he going to do without that fat? Fat is THE signifier for domestic duck breast. Without it, where are we? And wild ducks, they just fly and swim too much to develop that lovely layer of fat on their breast. We could learn a lesson from them. Well, Chef — thoughtful fella that he is — had removed the distinctive fat layer and made cracklings out of it for a salad topping. Cool. I liked it. But, I couldn’t do that as I had no fat, more’s the pity. I just needed to see how denuded duck breasts could be cooked to perfection without wrapping them up in smoky bacon. And he had it figured. It included a little butter — and it would, right? So I watched and memorized…only later remembering this recipe might be in a book on my shelf. The tv series was, as it so often is, linked to a book. And so it was…JACQUES PÉPIN: HEART AND SOUL IN THE KITCHEN. Sitting right above my reading chair in the library. And the duck recipe showed up at at page 208.

I figured I’d do my duck breasts like that come Friday Night Date Night. But when I went to the freezer, a package of wild goose breasts appeared first. I did see the duck, but also saw there were several breasts in that package and only two decent-sized goose breasts in the other. Why not go with the wild goose chase? I was game (ha), but a few changes had to be made because 1. goose isn’t exactly like duck and 2. I had a few ideas of my own, as well as some ingredient changes. Overall, the salads are very similar, but not exactly the same by any means. The dish was so delicious that I’ll try the duck or some other protein next time. (Beef or pork tenderloin?) I hope that’s soon. Thanks, Chef Pépin!

A 'wild goose chase' was a race in which horses followed a lead horse at a set distance, mimicking wild geese flying in formation.
~phrases.org.uk

Here’s how it went:

No matter how many times I thought about it, I couldn’t help but say, try this and, “Your goose is cooked!”

Wild Goose Breast Salad

Cooking wild game is many times a challenge, but occasionally a cook hits the jackpot. Adapted from a Jacques Pépin duck breast salad recipe I happened to watch him cook on PBS, this easy, but elegant and scrumptious whole meal for four is on the table so quickly. Don’t let the ingredients list fool you; there’s not much to making this salad. A loaf of crusty bread, a little butter, and a decent bottle of Pinot Noir are the only other things you’ll need! Do remember to marinate the goose in the morning or even the previous evening to make sure you’ve done away with any gaminess, which can easily mar an otherwise lovely wild game dinner. If you’re a couple, serve half one night and half the next, only tossing enough salad with the vinaigrette as needed each time.
4 servings

Ingredients

Goose:

  • 2 boneless wild goose breasts, approx. 8-ounces each

Marinade for Goose Breasts:

  • 2-3 cups white wine–enough to cover the goose breasts
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or sage

Vinaigrette for Salad:

  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons EACH: red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and toasted sesame oil (can sub hazelnut or walnut oil for the sesame oil)

Cooking the Goose:

  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon EACH kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 whole crushed garlic cloves

Assembling the Salad:

  • 8 cups loosely packed arugula
  • Generous pinch EACH kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts for garnish

Instructions

  • MARINATE THE GOOSE: Stir together the marinade ingredients in a large mixing cup or bowl. Place goose breasts in a non-reactive container (glass or stainless steel) and pour the marinate over them. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
  • MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE AND PREHEAT THE OVEN: About a half hour before serving, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Place rack at center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
  • COOK THE GOOSE: Heat the butter in a large, heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high flame until foaming. Remove goose from marinade and pat dry. Remove as much silver skin as possible with a small, sharp knife. Salt and pepper the goose breasts, place them in the pan, and sauté 3-4 minutes on each side. Place pan in oven and roast for several more minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 135 degrees F. Remove pan from oven. Transfer the goose to a plate on the stove and cover loosely with foil while you make the sauce and toss the salad. The temperature of the breasts will rise as they rest. When the sauce and salad are both ready, slice the goose breasts thinly at an angle.
  • MAKE THE SAUCE: Pour the water and wine into the skillet in which you cooked the goose and add the whole garlic cloves. Heat, stirring, over medium-high flame and cook a few minutes until reduced by about half.
  • ASSEMBLE THE SALAD: Add the arugula to the bowl with the reserved vinaigrette. Season with salt, peppers, and Pecorino Romano cheese. Toss well. Divide the salad between four shallow bowls or plates and layer ¼ of the sliced goose down the center of each. Drizzle the sauce over the meat and garnish with the toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Notes

COOK’S NOTE:   Jacques’ original salad was published in his lovely book, HEART AND SOUL IN THE KITCHEN, which has a fun PBS TV series to go along with it. “Sautéed Duck Breast with Arugula Salad and Cracklings” (page 208-9) is a dish you might want to make another day if you have some domestic duck breasts with a lovely cap of fat. Wild duck and goose are just too lean for such tasty toppings as cracklings and require different preparation.
COOKING TEMPERATURES: FDA calls for an internal temperature of 165 F for goose breasts, though it’s common to serve it medium or medium rare instead of well-done.  We thoroughly enjoyed our tender goose (dark pink) and while I removed it to a plate to rest at 135 F, it  probably came up at least 10 degrees while resting.
No goose for you? Try this salad with chicken breasts, beef or pork tenderloin, or even lamb chops.  I don’t think you’ll be sorry.
Copyright Alyce Morgan, 2022. All rights reserved.

WINE: Date night splurge: I guessed an Oregon Pinot Noir would set this dinner off in a special way and indeed it did. When Cristom had 1/2 bottles on sale a few years ago, I grabbed 6. These smaller bottles age out more quickly than their 750ml big sisters, so it was time to drink one. We need to plan to drink the rest fairly soon. Everyday: Try an inexpensive French red Rhône such as Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rouge.

DESSERT: Time to keep using our peaches and berries, so I made a really quick peach and blueberry crisp. Served it with vanilla ice cream. This takes maybe 10 minutes to throw together and is baked in about a half hour in a 9″ x 9″ Pyrex dish. The peaches are so ripe, I didn’t even peel them. Just washed, pitted, and sliced. Here’s a photo I took of the crisp when I blogged it in late summer, 2020. If there are kids in your house, a crisp is a great baking project for them as long as you supervise the knife work. The recipe is easily adapted to use any fruit (or mix of fruits) you’ve got lying around that is starting to get a little overly ripe.

Current flowering arugula. Time to replant for fall.

TIPS:

“How to Cook Deboned Wild Goose Breasts,” LIVESTRONG. Includes information on serving temperatures.

CHANGE IT UP: You’ll see in the Cook’s Notes for the recipe, I’ve included a thought about using other protein to make this salad. Naturally a boneless or bone-in chicken breast comes to mind, but beef or pork tenderloin or lamb chops are possibilities. It’s also a tasty simple salad on its own. The original recipe uses hazelnuts rather than pine nuts, but our store had no hazelnuts. Even though pine nuts are dear, the small amount needed here is well worth the price. Walnuts, pecans, or almonds are other possibilities; do toast them. (A small cast iron saucepan or skillet works perfectly for stovetop toasting of nuts. Keep the pan on low and watch carefully.) I like the Pecorino Romano cheese, which is my addition, but you might replace it with another like grated Gruyère. Nothing terribly strong is indicated here as the goose should star set off by the crispy arugula salad that has an Asian flare if you’ve used the toasted sesame oil in the vinaigrette.

CUTTING FOOD COSTS/AVOIDING WASTE FOR THIS DISH: My guess is you’ve cut food costs quite a bit if you’re eating wild goose. There’s little else expensive here save the pine nuts and, as noted above, you can replace them with another nut — but I hope you won’t. Buy a small amount in the bulk section or check out the prices at Trader Joe’s. Perhaps you’d save by purchasing a green other than arugula, but I would go with the tiny splurge — or grow your own as I do. Right now (see above) mine is in full flower, but it’s time to put some seeds down for a fall crop. The heat of midsummer in Colorado–or elsewhere– isn’t conducive to growing greens, but some we’ve cut back have just begun to produce again as temperatures wane a little.

BELOW: Making a menu, even if you don’t follow it exactly, helps you plan your time and shopping but also reminds you to thaw food from the freezer or use fridge/pantry items. While I don’t aways accomplish it, I’m reminded to vary and balance the meals we eat. Here’s my menu from last week. You’ll see it changed, as it often does. A late in the day Costco run prompted a dinner out on Tuesday–unusual for us. Half-price appetizers and sale house wines tasted pretty good. I didn’t even get it changed, but we had fennel pork on noodles with grilled zucchini and peppers Thursday instead of burgers. And, of course, I made goose and not duck for Friday date night.


Goose idioms. Read them and weep.


Anybody make the peach scones from last week? Local follower Angie let me know she did and liked them a lot. If you didn’t try them, now’s the time. Peaches are coming ON!!

LIFE GOES ON:

Rosie, dark shadow in bottom left corner, greeting the sun this morning.

Thanks for keeping me company in my kitchen. I hope you’re thinking about what summer-only meals you’ve yet to cook this year and getting them onto your menu. This week I’m looking at grilled chicken legs, BBQ ribs, and perhaps a panzanella salad. More Colorado peach goodies? Olathe corn? Of course!! You?

Duck, duck, goose,

Alyce

Leave a Reply