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Squab in the Umbrian Style

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Piccioni, farm-raised young pigeons, or squabs, between three and four weeks old, are tender and tasty. Cooking them this way is typical throughout Umbria, with variations that include anchovy tucked into the cavity or larding with pancetta. Butchers often deprive customers of the giblets of fowl, but for this dish, the giblets-heart, gizzard, and liver-are absolutely essential to the sauce. Without them, the sauce is insipid. Serve a slice of coarse country bread or torta al testa alongside each bird so as not to waste any of the delicious pan juices. Cornish hens may be substituted.

4 people

Cooking Methodbraising, sauteeing

CostSplurge

Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturecrisp, garlicky, herby, juicy, meaty, rich, savory, spiced, tangy, umami, winey

Ingredients

  • 4 squabs with their giblets
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, bruised
  • 6 fresh sage sprigs, 3 inches long
  • 6 fresh rosemary sprigs, 3 inches long
  • 6 whole cloves
  • Zest of ½ lemon, in large strips
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices coarse country bread

Instructions

  1. Rinse the squabs and dry well inside and out. Trim the giblets of any dark spots, fat, and membrane and chop roughly; set aside. Use kitchen string to tie the legs of each squab loosely together.

  2. In a heavy-bottomed, wide, deep skillet or Dutch oven large enough to accommodate the 4 birds, warm the oil and garlic together over medium-low heat. Sauté until the garlic is nicely golden, about 4 minutes. Tie the sage and rosemary sprigs together with kitchen string and add to the pan along with the cloves, lemon zest, and chopped giblets. Sauté until the giblets are nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

  3. Remove and discard the garlic, raise the heat to medium, and add the birds; brown them evenly, about 15 minutes. Add the wine, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste and deglaze the pan, stirring to dislodge any bits stuck to the bottom. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the squabs are tender, about 15 minutes longer, adding a few tablespoons of water, when necessary, to keep the birds moist. Be sure not to overcook them, or their meat will dry out.

  4. Scoop out and discard the bundled herbs, cloves, and lemon zest from the pan juices and check for seasoning. Remove the pan from the heat and let the birds settle for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Remove the strings from the birds. Serve each squab on a plate alongside a slice of bread. Defat the pan juices and pour over each serving.

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