Roast Goose or 7 Fishes? Traditional or Contemporary Christmas Dinner

Eggplant Rice Dressing Arancini

Roast Goose with Muscadine Wine Sauce and Pauline Hebert’s German Potato Salad

When my husband Harris was a little boy, his family often went to Grand Prairie to his Great-aunt Pearl’s for Christmas dinner. Goose was the favored bird, and the hunters would travel to Lacassine to secure their prey. Harris was seven and got to go along, then returned to the house where the birds were dressed and prepared. Truly a communal festivity, Aunt Pearl served a muscadine sauce to go with the goose, and I wanted to honor those memories with a roast goose dinner for your holiday meal.

My dear friend, Elizabeth, treasures a dish her mom makes for Christmas Dinner and other celebratory meals, German potato salad. Because of the large community of Louisianians whose heritage is German, there are many, many versions of this salad. Feel free to make the recipe that your family craves, but if you’re looking for a spin on your classic, this is a delicious rendition.

Pauline Hebert's German Potato Salad

Pauline Hebert’s German Potato Salad

I’ve roasted a few geese in years past, and generally the process is complex and stressful. There’s the chefs’ camp that thinks the goose should be dipped in boiling water for one minute to make the skin taut before roasting after a two-to-three day brining in the refrigerator. Others insist that the bird start breast-side down in the oven, is flipped mid-way through roasting, and other time-sensitive maneuvers. Daunting is hardly the half of it. So I set out to find a way that is easy on the cook’s time and good nature.

Roast Goose with Muscadine Wine Sauce

Roast Goose with Muscadine Wine Sauce

Keep in mind that I’m referring to a domestic goose—which you can find in local stores such as Rouse’s and Fresh Market, as well as small meat purveyors around Acadiana—wild geese have far less fat and are cooked differently from my recipe.

Domestic geese are extremely fatty, and you’ll want to cook off most of the grease to render a bird that is tender and has crispy skin. I found the solution from one of the U.K.’s celebrated chefs, Jamie Oliver. The Brits love goose for Christmas, so you can be sure their cooks know what they’re doing. Jamie puts the scored and seasoned bird directly on the oven rack with a deep-sided roasting pan underneath to catch all the drippings. Genius! The bird roasts beautifully with no fussy mess.

For this story and the photo shoot, I roasted the goose in the morning, carved it, drizzled it with a bit of the goose drippings and put it in an oven-proof baking dish covered in foil. When our daughter and her boyfriend (and his adorable new puppy) arrived at eight o’clock, all I had to do was warm the meat in a 200 degree F. oven, rewarm the sauce which I decided to ramp up with some roasted raspberry chipotle sauce, set out the potato salad and dinner was served. The meat suffered not at all in the intervening time and might be something that appeals to you, too. Holidays are for fun and conversation, not standing over the stove every minute.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes en Papillote and Eggplant Rice Dressing Arancini

For my contemporary take on Christmas dinner, I’m giving a nod to an Italian-American tradition of serving The Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve when observant Catholics abstain from meat. I’ve long wanted to do this, but circumstances have never conspired to make it possible.

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Feast of the Seven Fishes

It’s customary in this celebration to prepare seven (or more or less depending on the family) unique seafood dishes. I’m combining seven varieties of seafood in a single entrée that would be lovely for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The amount can be doubled or tripled easily and since the seafood is cooked in parchment, clean up is a breeze.

Accompanying the seven fishes en papillote, I’m suggesting my spin on eggplant rice dressing by preparing it in another favored Italian fashion: arancini. I tuck a morsel of smoked sausage inside and shallow fry them until crispy and delicious.

Eggplant Rice Dressing Arancini

Eggplant Rice Dressing Arancini

Whether your celebration leans toward traditional or contemporary, I hope you have a chance to try these recipes and enjoy them in the loving company of your family and friends.

Roast Goose with Muscadine Wine Sauce
Roast Goose with Muscadine Wine Sauce
  • 1 6-7 lb. goose defrosted, giblets and neck reserved
  • Cajun/Creole seasoning of your choice
  • 2 cups goose stock from reserved giblets and neck
  • 2 cups semi-sweet red muscadine wine
  • 2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce minced or
  • 1/4 cup roasted raspberry chipotle barbecue sauce
Pauline Hebert's German Potato Salad
Pauline Hebert’s German Potato Salad
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Louisiana
Servings: 4
  • 4 medium red-skinned potatoes
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs sliced
  • 1 medium onion peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 tbs. good olive oil divided
  • 2 tbs. vinegar sherry vinegar is especially good
  • salt pepper and seasoning blend to taste
  • 2-3 green onion tops thinly sliced
  1. Place the potatoes in a sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring to simmer over medium heat and cook until the tip of a sharp paring knife can be inserted and removed with little resistance. Depending on the size of the potatoes, 20-25 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir occasionally until desired brownness is achieved, approximately 15-20 minutes. Set aside but do not remove from the skillet.
  3. When the potatoes are done, remove from the sauce pan and place on cutting board until cool enough to handle. Slice and layer on a serving dish alternating with slices of hard-boiled egg.
  4. Place the skillet with the browned onions back over medium heat until warm and add the vinegar and seasonings. Taste for seasoning, adding either vinegar or more olive oil as desired. Drizzle over potatoes and eggs and garnish with onion tops.
Feast of the Seven Fishes
The Feast of Seven Fishes en Papillote

I purchased all the fish for this recipe from Brent, who heads the fish department of Whole Foods in Lafayette. They always have a large selection of super fresh seafood.

If you’ve never made en papillote before, there are easy, online tutorials and videos. They are infinitely easier to follow than written instructions.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
  • 2 lbs fish and shellfish approximately 4 oz. each of 7 varieties. I used shrimp, scallops, calamari, salmon, paiche, trout, and halibut. Divide each type of seafood into four portions.
  • 4 15x18-inch pieces of parchment paper
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil use the good stuff
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes I prefer crushed red pepper for this recipe so you get a little pops of heat now and then, rather than an overall spiciness, but the choice is certainly yours.
  • 2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder or tapioca starch
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup parsley or cilantro, minced
  • salt, pepper, Cajun/Creole seasoning to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

    In a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the olive oil and when a few bubbles begin to form, add the garlic and stir gently until the slices are barely golden. Do not overcook as the garlic will become bitter. Add the crushed red pepper flakes.

    In a small bowl add the cornstarch and lemon juice and stir until thoroughly combined. Add to the skillet and stir for approximately 30 seconds. Off heat, but leaving the burner on, add the butter and swirl until melted. If necessary, swirl the pan over the burner should the butter stop melting, but don’t place on the burner directly. Turn off the burner. The cornstarch mixture and not overheating will prevent the sauce from breaking and becoming greasy.

    Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice or olive oil as desired. Add the parsley and stir. Set the skillet aside.

    Place one portion of each type of seafood onto one half of the parchment paper in a single layer leaving a 3-inch border around the edge. Drizzle one-fourth of the garlic butter mixture over the seafood, distributing evenly. Following the tutorial, fold and crease the edge in increments until the packet is sealed. Place on rimmed baking sheet.

    Repeat with remaining packets. Place in oven and cook for 8 minutes. Remove from oven, place on plates and serve immediately, allowing each guest to pierce the paper with the tip of a fork, carefully tearing it open as steam will be released. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Eggplant Rice Dressing Arancini
Eggplant Rice Dressing Arancini
Arancini translates from Italian to mean little oranges which these rice balls resemble when cooked. I’ve used ground parmesan crisps for the “breading.” It fries up beautifully and is gluten free. You can find them in many supermarkets in the cracker aisle. I also used arborio rice which is traditional, but medium-grain rice will work as well if it is a bit sticky and not dry. Don’t be alarmed if the arancini seem loose as you form them. Once you roll them in the crumbs they will hold together and firm up as soon as you start to fry them. Use a medium sauce pan for frying 4 arancini at a time and add only enough oil to submerge the rice balls half way up their sides.
  1. In a Dutch oven or large skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent, but not brown. Add the celery and green pepper and continue to sauté for 5 minutes.
  2. Add cubed eggplant and cook down, about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. You should have approximately 2 cups of cooked vegetables. Add the rice and parmesan and and mix thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and add more to your liking if needed. Add beaten egg and mix thoroughly.
  3. Scoop up about a 2-tablespoon portion of the eggplant mixture, tucking a morsel of smoked sausage into the center. Roll in the crushed parmesan crisps and set on rimmed baking sheet. Continue shaping and rolling until the mixture is used up. Depending on the size, you should have approximately 16 arancini.
  4. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Drop a few of the parmesan crumbs into the oil and when bubbling, and using a slotted spoon, gently lower 4 arancini into the oil. Do not crowd the pan as it will drop the temperature of the oil and make the arancini greasy.
  5. As the arancini cook, gently turn them around and over until golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper-towel lined sheet pan and keep warm. Continue frying remaining arancini. Sprinkle with salt if desired and serve immediately.

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