Easy Grillery-tested recipes by Grillworks and Grillery owners.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Squab by Billy Brackenridge

Another from Mr Brackenridge - squab is something to try if you've never grilled it. Delicate small game flavor and tender as can be - Ben

Squab is young pigeon. They are best taken just as they are beginning to fly.
Squab is a staple of Northern Italian cooking. The mature pigeon is used to make broth which is the basis of a traditional Venetian risotto, but squab is best grilled. You don’t want to grill a mature pigeon!

My parents were married in 1937 and lived in Pasadena California. They didn’t have much money as this was the worst of the depression, but my mother’s parents lived on a ranch where squab were raised. My father built a grill from a galvanized wash tub with the grill suspended by a chain connected to the wood beams of the porch on their Monterey style house. This recipe is based on my mother’s recollection of my father’s recipe.

My mother tells me this was their “party meal” as nobody had any money, but they could entertain lavishly given that the squabs were free. Their guests included M.F.K. Fisher and Julia McWilliams (later Julia Child).

I am paying $8.50 for a squab. I get them in Chinatown in Los Angeles where they are fresh killed. Here is a picture of a squab as purchased.
Here it is trimmed:

As the squab will be eaten with the fingers it is necessary to remove the backbone, brestbone and ribs. I use a small sharp knife and poultry shears.

You can save yourself the labor by ordering “semi-bonless squab” from www.squab.com, but I prefer Chinese poultry shops where birds are fresh killed.
Use a ratio of 3:2 sherry and soy sauce as a marinade (enough to cover). For four squabs add the juice of two lemons. Here I am using a dry sherry, but I’d recommend Dry Sack medium dry.

Refrigerate overnight.

Before grilling add a cup of the marinade and half a stick of butter to the reservoir. Melt the butter, and use a basting brush on squab as it cooks.

Here is the first of the marinade returning to the reservoir. Note the marinade is getting darker.

The marinated squab doesn’t look very attractive, but as it cooks the skin will shrink and it will look more like a bird even though the bones have been removed. Raise or lower the grill to keep a hot fire. The object here is to keep the birds from burning, but brown the birds and marinade so you get a good color. This is why we are using butter rather than oil. It browns up and gets tasty.

Here is the finished squab plated. Each squab has been cut in half along where the breast bone would have been.

This style is best eaten with fingers. There are bones in the drumstick and wings, but none in the breast and thigh which makes this good finger food.

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