Friday, November 23, 2007

My Goose Is Cooked

And stuffed, but it wasn't really a goose, it was a chicken. Since about 2002 or so, I've been in charge of handling some of the holiday cooking. This usually means coming up with something to do with fowl for either Christmas or Thanksgiving, and this usually means stuffing and roasting fowl for those holidays. My usual standby is a recipe adapted from an 1950s episode of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Richard Greene; the episode in question is a Christmas one involving Robin Hood's rescue of a goose named Matilda. Hollywood, as usual, does a wonderful job of romanticizing the serf/noble relationship; even with as many flaws as the story has, it's worth a look for its amusement value. If you can't find it, keep reading for the "spoilers".

Davie, a serf boy, gets caught harvesting mistletoe and holly in the woods; the new lord of the manor decides he doesn't want his serfs doing any such thing, no matter if it's an established tradition, and orders that Davie be seized and thrashed for thievery. Davie's pet goose, enraged at the perceived threat to her companion, flies at lord's horse, which rears and deposits His Lordship on his posterior; the lord of the manor promptly orders Matilda's arrest, which the seneschal effects with the aid of a burlap sack. O.O Poor Davie!

Friar Tuck happens along and finds Davie, sobbing under an oak tree; he agrees to visit the manor to see if he can persuade His Lordship to spare Matilda's life. His Lordship, however, has already decided to try the goose--yes, try the goose, as in putting the goose on trial; Friar Tuck, in dismay, insists on defending Matilda and calls several character witnesses to testify on her behalf. Naturally, His Lordship has plans for Matilda, and he sentences her, ordering that she be roasted for his Christmas dinner. Ouch. Friar Tuck, in a last desperate attempt to save the goose's life, takes the man aside and suggests that there's a proper way to cook a goose: First, he says, she must be given wine, and once she's properly drunk, then she can be killed. Afterward, rather than simply roasting her, she must be stuffed with a mixture of bread, apples, mushrooms, honey, and egg. This, he assures the duke, is the only way to prepare a goose. The duke unbends enough to consider this new option, and orders his seneschal to take the goose to the kitchen; in the meantime, the good Friar hastens away to find Robin and ask for his assistance.

Robin agrees to visit the manor and see for himself what kind of man the new lord is. In the guise of Sir Roger of the Dell, he arrives at the manor and, after getting the duke's version of the story, suggests that the Christmas celebration be held as usual, with the serfs being permitted to come for their feast and present their new master with "gifts". The duke agrees, but asks, "What if they won't come?"

Robin replies, "Then make them come!"

The following day, the serfs arrive, and with them come Robin and Friar Tuck; the latter makes a bee line for the kitchen and begins plying the goose--and the cook--with wine, saying that if the goose won't drink on her own, then she must learn by their example. I don't think anyone but the cook gets the full benefit of the French wine, and he eventually dozes off in a cozy corner. In the meantime, the duke's guards herd the serfs into the great hall for their compulsory gift giving, mutton stew, and "enough Wassail to wet their lips on"; the duke points Davie out to Robin as the troublemaker responsible for his undignified tumble and the erstwhile owner of the goose.

Robin, crafty fox that he is, advises the duke to flog the boy and make an example of him; the duke demurs, leaving Robin to take charge of the flogging behind a folding screen. Robin, of course, whispers to Davie to scream as though he really is being flogged; the duke, overcome with remorse, rushes to halt the beating and, in the process, knocks over the screen and reveals the ruse. Robin explains the reason for it, and the nobleman offers to make amends by giving Davie whatever he wishes. Davie, of course, would like nothing better than to get his beloved pet back; the duke, however, is unable to give the boy his goose, and tells him so... and Friar Tuck appears in the door with the goose under his arm, alive and well.

So, where is this going? Friar Tuck's recipe for stuffing fowl didn't include any standard measurements--surprise--so I wrote down the ingredients and did some tweaking. Since this isn't what I did for Thanksgiving this year, the recipe for the other stuffing will be posted under separate cover. :P

Friar Tuck's Stuffing:

  1. 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 4 cups bread cut into cubes
  4. 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  5. 1 1/2 cups chopped mushrooms
  6. 2 eggs, beaten
  7. 3 tbsp honey
  8. 2 tsp chopped sage
  9. 1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  10. 1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
  11. 1 1/2 cups chicken broth

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