Oie avec pruneaux d’Agen
This is a classic winter dish in southwestern France. Try to buy your goose from a farm or a boucherie that advertises local birds. In the run up to Christmas you will find one easily in the markets.
Be prepared! A French goose will usually come with head and feet still attached and you will generally be asked if you would like them removed for you. With the giblets, they make a splendid stock. The neck can be stuffed to make a classic hors d’oeuvre.
I like to serve this dish with little roast potatoes and winter greens, whatever is fresh in the markets at the time.
1 Plump Young Goose (4 – 5 Kilos)
8 Shallots, Peeled
8 Cloves Garlic, Unpeeled
500g Stoned Agen Prunes
50g Caster Sugar Plus a Teaspoon
125ml Glass Red Wine
Coarse Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C.
Place the prunes in a saucepan with the sugar and a glass of Armagnac. Heat very gently until the sugar melts, then pour into a serving bowl and leave to absorb the Armagnac. When you serve the goose pass the dish of prunes for everyone to help themselves.
Carefully wash and dry your splendid oven-ready goose and lay on a grill in a roasting tin. Prick the skin all over the breast and legs with a fork and rub in a couple of pinches of coarse salt.
Roast the bird in the centre of a hot oven for about 1 hour 30 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic for the last thirty minutes.
Be careful not to overcook the breast, if necessary cut the legs away from the body for the last thirty minutes, you can re-attach them with cocktail sticks whilst resting the bird and nobody but the carver will be any the wiser!
Whilst the bird is cooking prepare your potatoes for roasting, you will have plenty of fat in the tin after an hour and a half and can tip enough out to roast your potatoes. Goose fat makes the best roast potatoes in the world.
When your goose is cooked (!) take it out of the oven and pour off all the accumulated fat in the tin. Tip some into your waiting potato roasting dish, baste them and slide them into the top of the oven. Save the rest for other dishes. Cover the goose and leave in a warm place to rest for thirty minutes whilst you make the sauce.
Place the goose roasting tin on the hob – make sure you have drained off all the fat – and pour in a good slosh of Armagnac. Add a sprinkling of salt if necessary and a good grinding of pepper, whisk well and allow to bubble for a minute or so. A professional chef would flame the Brandy at this stage, but unless you happen to be a professional chef, I don’t advise it! Add the red wine and allow to bubble for another minute or two. Add half a teaspoon of sugar, give a last whisk and pour into a small jug for serving. This is a reduced sauce, not a gravy, and just a little is served with each portion.
Both the sauce and the prunes may be heated at the last minute.
Cook the greens, take the beautifully crispy potatoes out of the oven, arrange everything on hot serving dishes and pour everyone, especially yourself, a full glass of rich red Cahors.