Text and photos by Keith “Catfish” Sutton
A drive through the Arkansas Delta recently confirmed a fact I already knew: white-fronted geese continue growing in number throughout much of the Mid-South. In an area where these sporty waterfowl were found in just small numbers a few decades ago, there now are tens of thousands.
That’s good news for hunters in our region because whitefronts, or specklebellies as they’re often called, are among the tastiest gamebirds on the planet. As one of my goose-hunting buddies likes to say, “Snow geese and Canadas are like the sirloin steak of waterfowl. Specklebellies are the porterhouse.” The big, thick breast fillets from these birds have a rich flavor unrivalled by other goose species.
You can pluck your geese if you like, but I prefer the quicker skinning method for breasting out the birds. Part the feathers along the breastbone, slice the skin from neck to tail, then spread the feathered skin until meat on the breast and legs is exposed. Run a knife along both sides of the breastbone to remove two thick fillets. Then remove the legs and add them to a plastic bag full of gumbo and gravy meat. Wings and back have little meat and are usually discarded. Trim away bloodshot flesh, remove visible shot pellets and the remainder of the meat is ready to cook or freeze.
Once that is done, you can use the following tried-and-true recipes—an appetizer, a soup and an entrée—to turn your geese into meals you and your family and friends are sure to enjoy.
Appetizer: Smoked Goose Breast Quesadillas with Chipotle Guacamole
- 4 boneless specklebelly breast fillets, cooked on a smoker until done
- 8 flour tortillas
- 1-1/2 cups shredded Monterey jack or Mexican-style cheese
Slice the warm goose breasts into 1/4-inch strips. Place a tortilla in a warm skillet over low heat sprayed with no-stick cooking spray. Top with the meat strips from one bird, cover with one-fourth of the shredded cheese and top with another tortilla. Mash flat with a large spatula. Heat over low heat until the cheese starts melting, then flip and heat the other side until the cheese is thoroughly melted. Remove the quesadilla to a plate, and cut into quarters. Repeat to make three more quesadillas. Serve with guacamole you’ve previously prepared (recipe below).
- 4 soft, ripe avocados
- 1 medium tomato, diced small
- 1/2 cup chopped white onion
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 (7 oz.) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- Dash cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
- Fresh-squeezed juice from 1 lime
Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit, and use a spoon to scoop out the inside of the fruit. Transfer the avocado to a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients except the lime juice, and stir with a fork to blend well. Stir in the lime juice. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serves 4 to 6.
Soup: Specklebelly Gumbo
- 5 to 6 pounds white-fronted goose parts (giblets, legs, etc.)
- 1/2 cup cooking oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chopped white onion
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh-ground black pepper
- Several dashes Louisiana hot sauce
- 3 quarts hot water
- 1/2 cup chopped green onion tops
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Cooked rice
Parboil the goose parts in water to cover until the meat is tender and falling from the bone. Remove the goose parts from the water, cool and debone. Discard the bones. Reserve the meat.
Make a roux by combining the oil and flour in a big black-iron pot or skillet. Cook slowly over low heat until the roux is a nice caramel brown color. You must do this slowly, stirring constantly, and not allow the roux to burn. When the roux is the desired color, add chopped onion, green pepper and celery, and cook while stirring until the vegetables are tender.
Add salt, black pepper and hot sauce, then stir in the hot water and reserved goose meat. Cook over low heat in a covered pot for 1 hour. Stir in onion tops and parsley, heat for 10 minutes and serve over cooked rice. Serves 8 to 12.
Entrée: Grilled Marinated Goose Breasts
- Boneless breasts from 2 to 4 whitefronts
- 3 teaspoons grated onion
- 4 tablespoons grated carrots
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
- 1 teaspoon sage, crushed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups white wine
- Bacon strips
Marinate the goose fillets overnight in a mixture of the remaining ingredients, turning occasionally. Remove the breasts and pat dry. Wrap bacon strips around each piece and secure with toothpicks. Grill over medium heat 10 minutes per side, or until done to taste. Serves 2 to 4.