CHICAGO — Roasted goose, with all its medieval European grandeur, usually takes a back seat to ham and other proteins at the holiday table.
But some Chicago chefs are giving the fatty fowl a go this year, hoping to win over an audience that admittedly isn't quite there yet.
Didier Durand of Cyrano's Farm Kitchen in River North has long put goose on his Christmas Eve menu, but this year is offering it for pickup on Christmas Day — stuffed with fennel and chestnuts, roasted and ready to eat. He has 10 orders so far.
"I think people think it's too greasy," Durand said. "I brine mine, and I cook it for three hours, so it's nice and soft and juicy."
Durand's goose-to-go serves 10 and costs $125. You also can have it as part of a four-course takeout menu for $39 a person.
Pecking Order in Ravenswood, which specializes in Filipino-style chicken, also will have goose on its Christmas Day takeout menu. An 8- to 12-pounder costs $95 a la carte, and also is part of three multicourse to-go menus.
Chef Kristine Subido plans to brine the goose, then slather Sichuan peppercorn-infused butter between the skin and flesh before cooking it slowly on the rotisserie.
"It's kind of like eating barbecued duck from a Chinese restaurant," she said.
Roast goose has a strong flavor, gamier than duck, which might turn off some diners. Its generous layer of fat can be a culinary challenge (though, when cooked properly so the fat renders off, you're rewarded with crispy skin and succulent meat). And because of its limited availability, it can be a hard sell even for chefs.
Thomas Lents, the chef at Sixteen in the Trump Hotel, wanted to serve goose this year but couldn't find birds that met his Michelin-star standards.
"Geese are only really produced for the winter season, and I find that you get an overgrown and tough bird usually. It's difficult to get a fresh product," Lents said.
If and when you can find fresh geese, they're not necessarily local. Durand's are coming from South Dakota, Subido's from California.
It took a good deal of searching before Chuck Kazmer, executive sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton, settled on an Iowa farm that raises free-range geese, free of hormones and other unsavory stuff. On the hotel's Christmas Day brunch buffet, the goose will be served with onion-rosemary jus and braised red cabbage, a nod to Kazmer's German heritage.
"We'll serve it whole in all its glory, with someone carving the breast and leg," Kazmer said. "Half of it is the experience. The other half is all the goose fat you can use later."