Alsatian Roast Goose
At least one day in advance, wash the goose inside and out. With a cleaver, chop off the first joint of both wings and reserve them along with the neck, the heart, and the gizzards.
Save the liver for another use. Pull all the excess white fat from the goose's cavity and reserve. Cut off the neck skin flap, leaving only a few inches of it.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
Choose a heavy roasting pan just large enough to hold the goose comfortably on the diagonal. (Mine measures 12 inches by 15 inches, is nonstick, and works perfectly.) Cut half the reserved fat into 1/2-inch pieces and melt it in the roasting pan over medium high heat on the stove top.
Rub a little fresh black pepper into the cavity of the goose. Add the cubed apples but do not crowd them. Pull together the 2 skin flaps at the opening, push short skewers or even toothpicks through them, and secure the skin by lacing with string. (Or loosely sew the opening shut.) Wrap and tie 2 separate lengths of string around the goose's body, 1 around the breast to keep the wing joints close to the body, the other around the fattest part of the drumsticks.
Remove the solids from the melted fat and brown the goose on all sides, regulating the heat to avoid burning the fat. This will take between 20 minutes and 1/2 hour. Balance the goose on the sides of the roasting pan or hold it by the drumsticks to get at irregular surfaces. Meanwhile, chop the reserved neck, wingtips, and innards into 1-inch pieces.
When the goose is nicely browned, remove from the heat, set the goose on its back, and scatter the pieces of neck and wing around it. Slide the roasting pan into the preheated oven and roast for 1/2 hour, basting after 10 and 20 minutes. Pour and spoon off the fat into a bowl; I like to use 1- and 2-quart Pyrex measuring cups for all tasks like this. Scatter the vegetables and pears around the goose. Moisten them with a little of the goose fat you have just removed and roast for 15 minutes. Using a bulb baster or a spoon, remove as much of the fat from the pan as you can.
Sprinkle the orange zest and ground cardamom over the pears, pour half the stock and half the wine over them, and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 300°F (175°C), pour the rest of the wine and stock over the goose, and roast for about an hour longer (removing the pears to a baking dish after a half hour), until the thighs reach 170°F (75°C) on an instant-read thermometer thrust into the thickest part of the meat.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Turn the heat up to 400°F (205°C) again. Lift the goose to a plate and immediately remove the apple stuffing to the baking dish holding the pears. Strain the roasting liquid into a saucepan, skim off most of the fat, and reduce to about 1 cup on the stovetop. Wipe out the roasting pan and put the goose back into the oven for 15 minutes to crisp its skin. Spoon a little goose fat and some of the half-reduced roasting liquid over the pears and the apple stuffing and put them in the oven with the goose to rewarm and brown slightly.
Let the goose rest for 20 minutes and serve on a large platter, surrounded by the little roast pears and the apple stuffing.
Note: This general method appears in published recipes by Alsatian chefs such as Christine Ferber and Antoine Westerman. The brining is mine (a mixture of soft, warm spices popular both in Alsace and, at Christmastime, throughout northern Europe). The fruit garnish and confidential hints are Christine's; the apple stuffing is a lighter, traditional Alsatian alternative to the more common, heavyweight ground pork and veal mixture that would have enabled this goose to satisfy 12 celebrants.