At Gasthaus Wild, the Austrian custom of roast goose for St. Martin’s is a veritable feast

[Note: An abridged version of this article appeared in the November 2016 print edition]

Legend has it that St. Martin gave a beggar half of his cape to keep him from freezing to death.
It is said that St. Martin gave a beggar half of his cape to keep him from freezing to death. // © Wikicommons

The annual celebration of St. Martin’s Day (Nov 11) originated in Tours, France, and spread throughout the European Catholic world in the middle ages. It marks the end of the growing season and beginning of the harvest. Its eponymous saint was a baptized Roman soldier who, legend has it, hid in a goose pen to avoid being ordained as bishop. The birds’ cackling gave him away, but apparently he exacted his revenge come slaughter season.

Historically, “Martinmas” – celebrated on November 11th at 11:11 in some countries – was followed by St. Martins Lent, a period of sporadic fasting ending on the Epiphany (January 6th). This would end up being shortened to four weeks and called “Advent.”

Eating Martinigansl (Martin’s goose) on (or around) the saint’s day is Austria’s equivalent to North American Thanksgiving. Typically enjoyed with family or friends, the feast involves gorging oneself on fatty fowl, Rotkraut (stewed red cabbage) and potato Knödel (dumplings), chased down with a Heuriger (This year’s fresh wine) – or perhaps a Chenin Blanc, a varietal that St. Martin is credited with introducing.

Both of Erhard Auer’s restaurants, Café Amacord on Naschmarkt and Gasthaus Wild on Radetzkyplatz, are cherished among locals, but the latter is especially adored during Ganslzeit (goose season). Auer took over and renovated the former wine tavern in 2002, leaving its authentic historic ambience intact.

Chef Robert Titz at Gasthaus Wild prepares for the annual goose chase (Photo: Lennart Horst)
Chef Robert Titz at Gasthaus Wild prepares for the annual goose chase. // © Lennart Horst

Wild sources its ingredients locally – their oat-fed, Four-Paws-certified birds come from Hungary and Burgenland. On an overcast mid-October afternoon, head chef Robert Titz got ready for their annual goose chase (Nov 7-20) by preparing a test roast. A few lucky guests – including one Irish-expat habitué, who reputedly ate 14 portions there last year, and a photographer lured away from his vegetarian diet – got to sample a mouth-watering plate of crispy-skinned goose, Knödel filled with chestnut crème (a house specialty) and sweet-sour Rotkraut, all served atop a shallow pool of red-wine gravy. Auer lamented, “this year the Styrian wine grapes were damaged by storms, so Schilchersturm (an early fermented rosé) to stew the red cabbage is in short supply.”

Auer estimates that Wild serves 30 to 50 portions a day during Ganslzeit, so be sure to make your reservations a.s.a.p. – especially for larger groups, which Wild can accommodate quite comfortably. “Many people already made reservations last year,” boasted Auer. “Thursdays are the busiest.” Wild’s Irish Stammgast will surely attempt to break his own record. “It just gets better and better,” he declared.


Ganslzeit at Gasthaus Wild (Nov 7-20)
3., Radetzkyplatz 1
(01) 920 94 77
Open daily 9:00-01:00 (kitchen open until 23:00)


 

RECIPES

How to Get Your Goose Cooked – Roast Goose

gasthauswildclennarthorst-3274_crop

The day before, season the goose outside and inside with salt and pepper, then stuff with chopped apples, chopped onions and marjoram. Truss goose with kitchen twine or toothpicks.
Refrigerate overnight (at least 12 hours).

Before roasting, bring the bird to room temperature before roasting at 150°C (300°F) for 1.5 hours. Increase temperature to 160° for the last hour. Baste regularly with orange juice and red wine.

Before serving, crisp up the skin under the broiler if necessary. Let the bird rest while you make a pan gravy with the roast drippings, flour, broth and red wine.

Discard the stuffing, then carve into portions and serve on a large plate with Erdäpfelknödel and Rotkraut

Decorate with sprigs of thyme or marjoram.

Ingredients (serves 4, prep time 3 hours)

1 goose (4.2 kg)
1 apple, chopped coarsely
1 onion, chopped coarsely
fresh marjoram (lots)
salt and pepper
orange juice and red wine to baste

 

Potato Dumpling filled with Chestnut Creme
(Maroni gefüllter Erdäpfelknödel)

This recipe, as provided by Gasthaus Wild’s kitchen, lacks specific instructions for preparation, but by cross-referencing the methods in your favorite cookbook or asking someone’s grandmother, you should be able to figure it out! Wild advises that you should prepare the dumplings just before cooking them in lightly simmering water.

Ingredients

Mix all these ingredients, to make a sticky but firm dough:
– 500g cooked potatoes (mehlig – the kind you use for pureeing), peeled and cooled
note: It’s OK to use leftover potatoes from the day before
– 200g flour (griffig – medium fine grind)50g Semolina (Grieß – rough ground)
– 2 eggs

Puree these ingredients for the filling:
– 400g chestnuts, boiled until soft and cooled
– 1/8 liter port wine
5 tbsp. Lingonberries (Preiselbeeren)

 

Rotkraut (braised red cabbage)

This is a off-the-shelf recipe but can be changed according to one’s preferences.

Marinate cabbage for at least an hour in the lemon juice, salt and pepper. You can also add aromatics like chopped apples, orange juice, caraway seeds, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, juniper berries, etc, according to your preference.

In a pot, caramelize onion (with sugar, if sweetness is needed) in fat, then deglaze the pan with a little vinegar. Add marinated cabbage with its juices, adding a bit more water if needed to steam. When the liquid evaporates, add the Sturm or wine, cover with a lid and braise slowly until the cabbage is completely tender. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If too liquidy for you, thicken it up with some cornstarch. Serve warm.

Ingredients

1 kg red cabbage (Rotkohl or Blaukraut), shredded
1 onion, chopped finely
juice from 1 lemon
vinegar
1/8 l Schilchersturm (or, if you use dry red wine, then add a bit of sugar with the onions)
Salt and pepper

Wine Tip

Erhard Auer recommends eating your Martinigansl with a Staubiger – a young unfiltered wine – from the Weinviertel or a hearty red Blaufränkisch from Eisenberg in central Burgenland

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American expat Michael Bernstein moved to Vienna in 2001, abandoning his previous career in arts administration. He is now a freelance writer, editor, translator and Internet Marketing consultant. He was a regular contributor to inventures.eu — an E-zine about the Austrian/CEE startup scene — and was Lead Editor for its 2015 Ventures Almanach. Photo: Visual Hub