Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Recipe Corner: Spit-Roasted Squab, or Piccione allo Spiedo

In the same way that a Cornish game hen is like a miniature chicken, a squab, or pigeon, is like rich wild game in a small package. The dark meat is so succulent that it is one of the few birds—wild or domestic—that doesn’t dry out quickly when grilled over hot coals. In Italy, there is a saying “En agosto, palombo rosto,” which translates as “In August, roast pigeon.” Actually, I like my squab to fatten up some more, as they will by the fall. Which makes them perfect this time of year!

Squab, getting ready for the grill ... 
Before grilling, season the squab with crushed juniper berries, sage, garlic, and prosciutto, then baste with olive oil infused with herbs and citrus zest. This herb oil would also be great on grilled meats such as lamb or steaks. If you don’t have a grill with a spit, don’t worry: The squab can also be roasted in a hot oven. 

This dish is even more splendid when washed down with a glass of brawny Le Marche Rosso Conero.

-- FT


2 tablespoons crushed juniper berries

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 squab, about 1 pound each

3⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the birds
18 sage leaves
9 garlic cloves, skin left on, crushed
2⁄3 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1⁄8-inch-wide strips
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
3 bay leaves, preferably fresh, chopped
A 1⁄2-inch-wide strip of orange zest
A 1⁄2-inch-wide strip of lemon zest
1⁄2 cup dry white wine, such as Verdicchio or Pinot Grigio

In a small bowl, combine the juniper berries, 1⁄4 cup salt, and 11⁄2 teaspoons pepper.

Wipe the inside of the birds dry with paper towels. Brush or rub the squab with olive oil, including the cavities. Season the birds inside and out with the juniper mixture. Place the squab on a baking sheet. Stuff the cavity of each bird with 3 sage leaves, a garlic clove, and one-sixth of the prosciutto.

Cover and let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Prepare a charcoal fire or gas grill with a spit, or preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the 3⁄4 cup olive oil in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat just until warm. Remove from the heat, add the rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, orange and lemon zest, wine, and the remaining 3 garlic cloves, and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

If using a grill fitted with a spit, skewer the squab on the spit. Cook for about 20 minutes, using a pastry brush to baste the birds with the herb oil every 5 minutes. Or place the squab in a large roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, basting every 5 minutes with the oil. When the squab is done, its skin will be crispy and golden and the breast meat will be medium to medium-rare. Transfer to a platter, cover loosely, and let rest in a warm place for 10 minutes before serving.