The inspiration for this dish came from the wonderful rosemary smoked squab we had at RyuGin Taipei, in combination with the method for smoking sardines using nothing more than a large bowl and some rosemary. Squab is a small farmed pigeon; you can also use regular pigeon or wood pigeon to make this dish. I served the breast fillet medium rare and smoked quickly with rosemary, deep fried the leg for a crispy element (just like at RyuGin), and used the squab carcass to make a jus. Some butternut squash roasted with rosemary finished the dish. This was delicious as the flavors and textures worked very well together: the smoky tender and juicy breast, the crispy leg, the depth of the jus, and the echo of the sweetness of the meat and jus and rosemary in the butternut squash. Other than some aromatics to make the jus, the main ingredients for this dish are only the squab, squash, and rosemary. So the list of ingredients is surprisingly simple for such an array of flavors and textures. Here’s what I did…
For 4 servings (as part of a larger menu)
2 squab / pigeons
1/2 butternut squash
1/2 onion, 1/2 carrot, 1 stick celery, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp baking powder
oil for deep frying
Cut along the breastbone to remove the breast fillets of the squab. Cut off the legs as well.
Cut the carcasses into pieces and reserve. Separate the fat.
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. To make the jus, put the carcasses in an oven dish together with chopped onion, celery, and carrot.
Roast half an hour at 190C/375F. Browning the ingredients for the jus like this deepens the flavor.
Put the carcasses and vegetables in a pot. Deglaze the roasting dish with water and use a wooden spatula to loosen any browned bits that got stuck to the roasting tray.
Add this water to the pot with the carcasses and vegetables. Add just enough water to cover.
Add a sprig of rosemary.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over low heat for 3 hours. (You could also pressure cook for 1.5 hours instead.)
Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a wide pan.
Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Simmer until the stock has been reduced to a thick jus. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Season the legs with salt on both sides.
Mix 2 tablespoons of corn starch with 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder.
Dip the legs in the corn starch mixture and make sure they are covered all over.
Shake off excess corn starch and arrange the legs on a wire rack. Allow them to dry in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Score the breast fillets on the skin side (try not to cut into the meat) and season with salt.
Render the fat from the squab fat gathered from the birds. (If not enough is available, use olive oil. Browning the squab in its own fat enhances the flavor.)
Cook the breast fillets over high heat on the skin side until the skin is golden brown.
Cook for 30 seconds on the other side.
If cooking sous-vide, allow the breast fillets to cool and vacuum seal them.
Cook sous-vide for 3 hours at 54C/129F, or cook the breast fillets in a low oven (80C/180F) to a core temperature of 54C/129F. (You will need a second oven for this, as the butternut squash will require a much higher temperature to be roasted.)
Preheat the oven to 225C/440F. Peel the butternut squash and cut it into 8 wedges. Toss the squash with a tablespoon of minced rosemary, a minced glove of garlic, and some extra virgin olive oil.
Roast the squash at 225C/440F for 15 minutes, then turn it and roast for another 15 minutes for a total of 30 minutes. The squash should be nicely browned and tender, but not mushy. Season the squash with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Put some rosemary in the oven along with the squash so it can dry out, so it will be easier to use it for smoking.
To smoke the breast fillets, arrange them on a preheated plate and put some rosemary next to it. Ignite the rosemary with a blowtorch…
…and quickly cover the plate with a large bowl so the smoke will remain underneath. If the smoke subsides, re-ignite the rosemary after 5 minutes. The total smoking time is about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, deep fry the legs in oil at 180C/350F…
…until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Allow them to drain on kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
Slice up the smoked breast fillets. First put some jus on each preheated plate (preheated to about 100C/220F, not higher, as otherwise the jus will boil) and then the sliced up breast fillet, 2 squash wedges, and a deep fried leg. Serve at once.
We enjoyed this with a Rioja Reserva. This is great with many oaked yet elegant and complex red wines.
This is my recipe for traditional French onion soup that (apart from the bread and cheese on top) is made from only onions, water, salt, pepper, butter and a bit of flour. No beef stock. It is a chore to brown the onions, but it has great flavor.