Cooking Lessons

Location:Café Frauenhuber
Address:Himmelpfortgasse 6, 1010 Wien
Status:Open (last checked on 11 November 2020)
Eaten:Martinigansl (take-away)

If not for COVID-19, I would have probably never visited Café Frauenhuber. I will probably never visit it again once this virus story ends. It is not that anything is wrong about it; it’s just that I have always considered this traditional café a few meters away from the Kärtnerstrasse a purely tourist destination. Or maybe a destination for some old rich inhabitants of the first district. Anyway, it is a café, so no Brettljausen, spare ribs or Martinigänse, right?

I was wrong about the geese. A few days ago, Frauenhuber announced on Facebook that today, on St. Martin’s day (which is the darkest day of the year for Austrian geese) it would serve take-away geese upon pre-ordering. Moreover, it would offer two options: a cooked, ready-to-eat goose or a “sous vide” variant, precooked, kept in a vacuum bag and requiring a few minutes to finalize in the oven. I went for the latter and when I was handed the bag with the goose, sauce (“goose juice”), red cabbage, dumpling and cowberries, I found an entire A4 page with detailed instructions inside. In color. For someone as ignorant of cooking as me, this was intimidating.

All the better I felt when upon a closer inspection the instructions turned out rather straightforward. The goose got warmed up in hot water and then went into the oven for 22 minutes, while the rest spent four minutes in the microwave. It was simple, but I was highly proud of myself, as if I have taken a giant step towards becoming an expert chef.

OK, I probably fucked up the berries. The instructions did not say anything about taking them out of the plastic packaging that they shared with the cabbage and the dumpling, and anyway, how could I take them out if the “user manual” told me just to make a few small holes in the container before microwaving it? However, although the berries did not look particularly berry-like at the end, the goose itself was a complete success: fresh, tender, with plenty of tasty meat and just enough fat. True, it could have been better with a bit more salt, and the skin could have been crispier, but the first problem was easy to alleviate, while the second was my fault: the instructions did say that keeping the bird in the oven with the heat coming from above a bit longer would increase the crispiness, but I got too scared to burn the goose. The deeper I bit into the goose, the better it became, with the taste becoming quite refined, almost fruity. The secret was a slice of orange that the café vacuumed together with the goose. Perhaps that was by mistake, but the result was brilliant.

The thing that puzzles me most now is that if sous-vide geese are so convenient to cook and retain their freshness for so long, why don’t all the restaurants prepare them that way? I am sure customers would not mind waiting for 20 minutes for a goose that is so much better.

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