Roast Squab with Juniper Sauce
I had squab at a restaurant years ago. It was so good I decided to make it myself. For those who are not familiar with squab, it is a young pigeon. The flesh is a rosy color and it has a full flavor compared to most small game birds, at least those that I have tried. Farm-raised squab are available in some grocery stores or through mail order sources and the Internet. This recipe is very easy and makes an elegant entree for a special occasion or entertaining. It can be made in any amount, serving one squab per person.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 whole squabs, about 1 pound each
- 1/4 cup gin (see notes below)
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
- 2 tablespoons butter, preferably unsalted
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and then the celery, carrots and onions. Sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, juniper berries, thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté another minute. Place in a small bowl and let cool.
Preheat oven to 425° F. Remove the livers, gizzards and hearts from the squabs and reserve. Pat birds dry inside and out. Place half of the cooled vegetable mixture into each squab. Season all over with salt and pepper, then brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Heat a skillet, large enough to hold the squabs, over high heat. Add the squabs, breast-side down, and sear until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved livers, gizzards and hearts to the pan. Turn the squab breast-side up. Place in the oven and roast until done, about 30 minutes, basting with a little water after 15 minutes. Remove squabs from pan and let rest while making the sauce. (The livers, gizzards and hearts are cook's treat.)
Place pan over high heat. Add the gin and water or broth; cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes, stirring to loosen any browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Just before serving, remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Serve the squabs on individual plates, with some sauce spooned over each.
Notes: I rarely cook with gin, but it complements this dish perfectly since it is distilled using juniper berries. Dry vermouth can be substituted. Squab can be served medium-rare. I prefer mine medium-well, but still very moist. If you like yours less done, decrease the roasting time by 5 to 10 minutes. Alternately, if you want it well-done, add about 10 minutes.