Snow in Winter. This is a celebration of the darkest, coldest days of winter. It celebrates humble ingredients — kale, radishes, barley, snow geese — and happens to be one of the best, most original dishes I’ve made in years.
I am not just being overly proud here. Lord knows I beat myself up a lot when it comes to cooking, but sometimes everything just clicks. This was one of those times.
My inspiration is obviously Nordic, and while this dish has no clear analog in any of their books, I am pretty sure Magnus Nilsson, Rene Redzepi, Gunnar Karl Gislason or Christian Puglisi would be happy eating this plate of food… or at least I hope so.
I started thinking about this recipe while driving home from a goose hunt with my friend RJ Waldon. I’d managed to bring down a nice specklebelly goose and two Ross’ geese, which are smallish snow geese.
Snow geese in general get a bad reputation, largely undeserved. Yes, they have weird gray-blue skin, but they taste wonderfully beefy. This dish hinges on turning that gray-blue skin into an asset.
Everything on this plate is basically black or gray, making the medium-rare snow goose breast jump out on the plate. I dusted some dried, ground black trumpet mushrooms on the goose skin to make it even darker, and used the same ground mushrooms, combined with barley flour, to make spaetzle dumplings that look like stones in a stream.
I could have stopped there. But I didn’t.
I also happened to have some fresh black trumpet mushrooms I’d picked with my friend Jeff. They’d go in there, too.
What else would be good that’s dark? Black kale, whose color is that of the darkest depths of a forest. The kale added just enough green to play well with the goose breast.
That left black radishes. If you’ve never eaten them, they are, well… bitter and unpleasant raw. They have a thick skin where all that bitterness resides. But roast them like a turnip and they transform into a surprising combination of sweet and only slightly bitter that makes you wonder where they’d been all your life. My new favorite root vegetable.
Bringing it all together is some dark beer vinegar I’d made, plus some black garlic that went into the sauce. Black garlic is fermented so long the cloves get soft, sweet and addictingly funky.
Finally, I needed to find a grated cheese that would not melt on the spot like parmesan would. The answer was Greek myzithra cheese, which adds richness yet not melt into goo on the plate. Instant, edible snow.
Snow in winter, folks. It ain’t the easiest recipe I’ve ever designed, but it’s one of the best. I dare you to make it.
Snow in Winter
- STONE SPAETZLE
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups dark rye or barley flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons dried, ground black trumpet mushrooms
- 2 eggs
- cup About 1/2 whole milk or half-and-half
- 6 to 8 black radishes, cut into wedges
- Melted duck fat, butter or lard to coat
- 2 tablespoons to 3 duck fat
- 4 snow goose breasts skin on
- Salt and black pepper
- tablespoon About 1 dried ground black trumpet mushrooms
- 1 pound fresh black trumpet mushrooms
- 1 onion, minced
- 8 to 12 leaves of black kale chopped, lacinato or "dinosaur"
- 3 cloves black garlic
- 3 cups mushroom, goose, duck or beef stock
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
- Beer or malt vinegar, to taste
- Greek myzithra cheese, for garnish
- Start by making the spaetzle, which can be made up to a day ahead. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl; it should look like really thick pancake batter, not a dough. Set a large pot of salted water to a boil. By the time the water boils, the batter will be ready. I use a spaetzle maker to make my spaetzle, but you could use a colander with large holes, too. Get a bowl of ice water ready, and a cookie sheet with a little cooking oil in it.
- Load up the spaetzle maker with the batter and use the hopper to make the dumplings. Let them boil for 1 minute after they rise to the surface. Move the dumplings to the ice water and let them cool off for a minute or three, then move them to the cookie sheet. Toss them with the oil so they don't all clump together. Set aside.
- While you are waiting for the spaetzle water to boil, heat the oven to 375°Toss the radish wedges in the melted duck fat and salt well. Put them uncovered in an ovenproof pan and roast until they are soft and caramelized on the edges, about 45 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- When the radishes have about 15 minutes to go -- or you can just wait until they are done -- heat the duck fat for the goose in a large saute pan. Sear the goose breasts according to these directions, then let them rest on a cutting board, skin side up. Sprinkle the ground black trumpet mushrooms on the skin the moment you set them on the cutting board.
- Add the minced onion and black trumpet mushrooms to the pan and turn the heat to high. Toss to coat with the duck fat (add more if you need tand sprinkle everything with salt. Let this cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms give up their water, about 6 to 8 minutes. Let them sizzle until the onions get a little browned at the edges.
- The radishes should be done by now. Set the resting goose breasts in the still-warm oven. Don't turn it on.
- Add the black garlic to the pan and squish it so it combines with the onion and mushrooms. Add the chopped kale and saute until it wilts. Pour in the stock and boil it down furiously until it thickens into a sauce. Add the spaetzle and rosemary to the pan, toss to combine and turn off the heat. Add the beer or malt vinegar to taste.
- To serve, give everyone some of the contents of the pan, then some of the radishes. Slice the goose breast into three pieces and give everyone one full breast. Garnish with some of the myzithra cheese for "snow."