Friday, November 26, 2010

Pan-Roasted Squab, Polenta and Broccolini

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!

Pan-Roasted Squab

1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup evoo
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
5-6 large sprigs thyme
2 squabs, cleaned, rinsed and patted dry
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine honey, balsamic, evoo, onion, and thyme in a large resealable plastic bag.  Add squab and turn to coat, massaging marinade into the squab.  Insert some of the onions and 1 sprig of thyme into the cavity of each bird.  Place plastic bag inside a baking dish and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours, turning occasionally.

Remove squab from marinade and pat dry with paper towels.  Season outside and inside with s&p.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  Add vegetable oil.  Swirl the oil around the pan to evenly coat.  When the oil is hot, add the squab breast side down.  Using either the top from a panini press, a foil-covered brick, or a plate with a weight of some sort on top (I suggest a 19 oz can of chickpeas or something similar), press the squab down to increase the contact with the hot pan.  Cook for 2 minutes, then remove weight, and flip squab over.  Replace weight.  Cook another 2 minutes.  Remove weight and place pan in the oven.  Roast until an instant-read thermometer reads 130 degrees F, about 12-15 minutes.

Remove squab from oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.  Serve atop a bed of polenta (see below).

Creamy, Corn-Studded Polenta
May 2008

3 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp salt
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 ears)
1 tbsp butter

Bring broth, cream, and salt to boil in medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in polenta; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring often. Add corn; increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook until polenta is soft, thick, and creamy, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Broccolini with Smoked Paprika, Almonds and Garlic
Bon Appetit
November 2009

3 tbsp evoo, divided
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Coarse kosher salt
2 pounds broccolini, rinsed, stalks cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths
1/3 cup water
1 to 2 tsp Sherry wine vinegar

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add almonds. Stir until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and paprika. Sprinkle with coarse salt; sauté 1 minute. Transfer to small bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet. Add broccolini; sprinkle with coarse salt. Add 1/3 cup water. Cover and boil until crisp-tender and still bright green, about 4 minutes. Pour off any water. Stir in almond mixture. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar. Transfer broccolini to bowl and serve.


  1. The Squab looks so good, presentation is great.

  2. great combo, fine texture and flavour