Plus pheasant, capon, squabBy Betty Shimabukuro
and other alternatives to
turkey as a holiday bird
You're tired of turkey. You've had it with ham. The upcoming holiday feasts promise to look and taste the way they have for decades. Same old, same old.
Here's a thought: Quack.
Duck, goose and other game birds offer a way to break with the traditional taste of turkey while holding onto the holiday spirit.
They're festive -- looking all brown, stuffed and roasted -- and they've been associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas eating for generations (remember the goose that Scrooge buys for Tiny Tim's family on Christmas Day?)
Maple Leaf Farms
Duck halves make an elegant holiday dish.
On the cookery scale, they're no harder to prepare than turkey, but they do cost more and run smaller, so they're best for small parties. A pair of squab for a party of two, a capon for six ... or try one as a side dish (turkey for the masses, pheasant for the few).
But you have to think fast. Many of these birds must be ordered ahead. At Strawberry Connection, for example, they're offering a full line of holiday birds, but the ordering deadline for Thanksgiving is next Tuesday.
The most popular of these will be ducks and geese. The geese come frozen from Canada, the ducks chilled or smoked from Northern California.
Americans eat about 1/3 pound of duck per person yearly, according to the USDA, a minuscule amount compared to chicken or turkey. Consumption of goose is even less.
The USDA also offers these tidbits about the birds: Because ducks and geese are birds of flight, all the meat is dark (although as poultry, it's technically still "white" meat). The color comes from red blood cells, which deliver oxygen to the muscles, which need the oxygen because flying is hard work. Chickens and turkeys, on the other hand, hardly fly, so their dark meat is confined to the legs, the parts where the muscles are working.
Also, because ducks and geese swim, they have a fat layer that provides buoyancy. The fat is not marbled into the meat, so it can be removed before cooking, or prick the skin all over to help it render out as it roasts.
Richard Field of R. Field Wine Co. has noticed a steady increase in the willingness of home cooks to try duck and goose, although it remains a "special occasion type of food."
"The media, the television shows, the newspapers, access to recipes ... are all making it so that people say, 'Hey, I can do this.' "
Local chefs such as Alan Wong, Russell Siu and Roy Yamaguchi serve a lot of duck, he said, so people are simply more familiar with it. "People are afraid to spend money on things they haven't tried before."
By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Tasters at Strawberry Connection compare the flavors
of roasted duck, goose and turkey.
Chef Nick Sayada at Strawberry Connection says the key to a successful duck or goose is to stuff it tightly and cook it slowly, with a lot of basting. The idea is to keep the bird from drying out, while still rendering the fat.
For the crunchiest possible duck, Sayada prepares a mixture of soy sauce, water and honey and brushes it over the duck, allowing it to sit out in a cool place about four hours before cooking, re-basting occasionally.
The end flavor will be stronger than chicken, although with a farm-raised bird a lot of the gaminess is gone.
1 4-5 pound duckling
Holiday Roast DuckMaple Leaf Farms
Glaze (suggestions follow)
Place duck on rack in roasting pan, breast side up. Roast at 350 degrees to an internal temperature of 180 degrees. About 2-1/2 hours. Brush with glaze during last half hour of cooking. Serves 5.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per 5-ounce serving: 490 calories, 42 g total fat, 14 g saturated fat, 125 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium.*
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
Pineapple Honey Glaze
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 teaspoons jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoons grated ginger
Cook juice and honey over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup syrup. Add chiles and ginger, simmer 2 minutes.
Suggested stuffing: cornbread.
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon dried apricots, pureed
1 tablespoon honey
Suggested stuffing: Dried bread cubes with celery, onions and cooked sausage.
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier
Combine ingredients and simmer to thicken.
Suggested stuffing: wild rice with mushrooms and water chestnuts.
10-15 pound goose
Roast Goose withT"he Joy of Cooking,"Simon & Schuster, 1997
1 quart sauerkraut, chopped and drained
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tart apple, pared and chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup dried currants
1 cup chopped water chestnuts
1/8 teaspoon thyme
Combine dressing ingredients and stuff goose tightly. Place goose on a rack in an uncovered pan and roast at 350 degrees for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, until internal temperature in the thigh reaches 180 degrees (allow 15 minutes per pound).
Baste with its own juices and remove fat as it accumulates in the pan. Serves 15.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per 5-ounce serving: 475 calories, 32 g total fat, 10 g sat. fat, 130 mg cholesterol, 520 mg sodium.*
Duck: Tender, dark meat, 4 to 8 pounds. Price range: $1.99 (Foodland)-$5.50 per pound (Strawberry Connection).
The 'other' birds
Goose: Tender, dark meat, 12 to 14 pounds. Price range: $2.88 (Foodland)-$4.25 per pound (Strawberry Connection).
Capons: Neutered young roosters. All white breast meat, 4-10 pounds, $4.25 per pound.
Squab: Young, domesticated pigeon. Lean, dark meat, 1 pound or less, $9.95 each.
Poussin: Very small, young chicken (4-6 weeks old), similar to Cornish hen. Tender, white meat, 1-1/2 pounds at the largest, $6.79 each.
Pheasant: Medium-sized game bird. White and dark meat, 2-1/2 to 5 pounds. Usually served as an accompaniment, not a main dish, $6.98 each.
Chukar: Similar to pheasant, but smaller, 2 pounds maximum, $13.98 each.
Unless otherwise stated, prices are from Strawberry Connection
Catching your birdDuck and goose are available at supermarkets. Foodland, for example, is running Maika'i specials on both birds. Strawberry Connection offers several game birds, fresh chilled, as well as smoked duck, pheasant and turkey and free-range turkeys. Call 842-0278. Deadlines to order:
For Thanksgiving: Nov. 17
For Christmas: Dec. 14
For New Years: Dec. 21