What do you do when you're flying solo for Thanksgiving? Well, I guess Alex and I weren't really flying solo, since we were together, but we were both away from home for our first Thanksgiving together. And seeing as I didn't get off work until almost 11pm on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we literally didn't have a clue what we were making. So Thursday around 1 pm we trudged on down to Fairway to try and figure out a nice Thanksgiving meal for the two of us. Alex was thinking poultry (although to be honest I wasn't really thinking at all) so we headed to the meat counter and found some cute little squab. Now I like squab, but it has certainly never occurred to me to buy it and cook it at home. I would have been more excited about some guinea hens or some duck breasts, but seeing as it was already after 1 pm on Thanksgiving Day, we picked up the squab and ran with it. After we decided on squab I decided that I wanted to make polenta and some sort of greens to do with it. So I picked up some red kale, some broccolini and some arugula. I figured that between the two of us we would figure out some sort of vegetable recipe with those options. I considered picking up some other vegetables too, but figured there was no point in being over-ambitious, especially seeing as I am going to have to work all weekend again. So we got home, and started with Google to get some inspiration. Then I stumbled across a recipe for Barbequed Squab with Porcini Mustard in The Babbo Cookbook and we decided to use that roughly for inspiration with our squab. As for the polenta and the broccolini, we relied on Epicurious to point us in the right direction there.
So we essentially used the Batali marinade of honey, balsamic, evoo, thyme and red onion to marinate the squab for about 6 hours before cooking it. Then we seared both sides in a cast iron pan, before tossing it in the oven to roast. Beware, because of the honey and balsamic in the marinade the squab skin goes from completely raw to almost burnt very quickly. So you're going to go to flip over the squab after searing the first side and think that you totally ruined it. But you didn't. At first we were totally worried that we had burnt the squab and were going to have to order Chinese takeout or something, but that's just what happens with this marinade. Although the Batali recipe calls for grilling, and also calls for the breastbones on the squabs to be removed (neither of which we did), we did weight the squab down on the pan as he recommended to give the bird a crisp skin and ensure quicker cooking. Now cooking and eating squab requires that you get over your fear of serving poultry with the slightest bit of pink inside, because like duck, this squab should be served medium-rare. We read somewhere that overcooked squab has a flavor and texture similar to liver. Gross. So anyway, we were very careful not to overcook the squab. And the meat was tender and juicy, rather than liver-like. However, it was almost crying out for some sort of sauce. The Batali recipe called for a porcini mustard to be served with the squab, but that just didn't do it for me. I was thinking some sort of agrodolce sauce or a fig mostardo would be phenomenal with the squab. Something a little sweet, a little sour, and with a hint of black pepper to it would really have elevated the dish to another level. It was good, but it just needed something.
As with all Thanksgiving feasts, I was way more into the sides than the main course. The broccolini was delicious - something I definitely plan to make again and again. The combination of the smoked paprika, garlic, almonds and sherry vinegar was genius. I loved it. And then the polenta was totally luscious and decadent - the corn gave it that little something extra, a little sweetness and brightness, that I really enjoyed. I will definitely be making both the polenta and the broccolini again, although I will have to decide what dishes to serve them with next time as I'm not sure that the squab will be a repeat experiment...
I hope that everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!
Recipes after the jump!