Butter and Sage Roasted Squab

Squab is my favorite fowl. Its meat is full flavored, not at all gamey, and stands up to intense flavor accompaniments such as wild rice and chanterelles. Squab is most delicious when the breast is still rosy. Set the table with sharp knives and have ready a pair of shears to pass at the table to get through some of the more resistant joints. Actually, the ideal way to serve squab is to bone them whole, leaving only the wings and leg and thigh bones intact. This is a luxury for the guests but a time-consuming effort for the cook, and not really necessary when throwing an informal party for good friends who are not above using their fingers when necessary.

One squab is more than enough per serving, so I don’t offer appetizers with a squab dinner and I keep the dessert light and refreshing.

If you prefer, Cornish game hens can be substituted.

Preheat the oven to: 425°F.
Baking time: 30 minutes
Internal temperature (thigh): 155°F.
INGREDIENTS MEASURE WEIGHT
volume ounces grams
6 squab* 15 to 18 ounces each 425 to 510 grams each
For optional stock: 1 bay leaf, 3 peppercorns, a few sprigs of thyme, ½ small onion, unpeeled
2 large cloves garlic, cut in half and peeled 6 grams
unsalted butter, softened 2 tablespoons 1 ounce 28 grams
24 large sage leaves
salt 1 teaspoon 0.25 ounce 6.7 grams
black pepper, freshly ground a few grindings
cayenne pepper about teaspoon
fresh thyme 1 bunch 1 ounce 28 grams

*Available at specialty markets and by mail order from 800-DARTAGN.

I grow pineapple sage, which has beautiful markings, in my garden, and I freeze it for use throughout the year.

Or sprinkle ½ teaspoon dried thyme inside each squab.

Method

At least 15 minutes before roasting, position an oven rack so that the roasting pan will sit in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Remove the necks, gizzards and livers from the cavities of the squab. If desired, make a stock from the necks and gizzards by simmering them for about 30 minutes or until tender with the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme sprigs and half onion in enough water to cover by 2 inches. Strain and reserve the stock for cooking the wild rice. (We like to eat the necks and gizzards.) Reserve the livers, refrigerated, for sautéing and filling the accompanying artichoke hearts.

Rinse the squab under cold running water, scraping out any remaining internal organs, and pat them dry with paper towels. Insert your fingers between the skin and flesh to loosen it over the legs and breasts.

Rub the squab all over with the cut garlic and then rub all over with the butter. Insert a sage leaf under the skin, in an attractive pattern, on each side of the breast and on each leg. Sprinkle each squab with the salt, pepper, and a pinch or two of cayenne pepper. Cut each piece of garlic in thirds and place two pieces in the cavity of each squab. Add a few branches of fresh thyme. Fold back the wing tips underneath the back. Tie together the legs only.

Roast the squab for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 400°F. and continue roasting for 10 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh (not touching the bone) reads 155°F; when you tip the squab tailward the juices should run quite pink. If additional cooking is necessary, baste with the pan drippings and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes.

,