Squab: You Never Know Until You Try It

Honestly, one of the best parts of my life is being able to share it with someone who punctuates it with really good food. Because I live with a cook, I can actually get away with doing things like spending the weekly grocery budget on a medley of game birds ordered off the internet. What we got for our $100 (including shipping) was:

  • 1 pheasant
  • 4 quail
  • 1 guinea hen
  • 2 squab

Here I have to give a shout out to the folks at D'Artagnan  for taking the required care in packaging their game meats and birds. When you order form their website, you can select your delivery date to ensure you are actually at home to receive it. Plus, it all comes vacuum-sealed and these awesome styrofoam boxes filled with ice packs. So even though they are driving down from New Jersey, everything is well-protected for the journey and arrives safe and sound.

When my counterpart asked me to take out some of that bird for dinner this weekend, I grabbed the squab.

For those who do not already know, squab is a variety of pigeon. It's a little smaller than a Cornish game hen, but not nearly as popular. Neither one of us had ever tasted it before tonight  Yet, I feel I can make such a purchase and trust that he will know what to do with it.

For some guidance in how to prepare this little delicacy, he referred to Le Gastronomique. Even Larousse was a little vague on squab, but recommended cooking it on a pan and serving it with peas.

What Le Gastronomique has to say about squab

He decided to stuff our squab with a mixture of spelt and leek and sear it on the stovetop in lamb fat and butter. Stuffing such a small bird is a little tricky. He did not make a stuffing like you would for a larger bird like a turkey. Rather, he filled their tiny cavities with the individual components: chopped leek, cooked spelt, a pat of butter, and a little toasted bread. Because our birds were partially deboned, he was able to fold the skin up over the opening to keep everything together.

Squab stuffed with spelt and leek

Stuffed and ready to cook

Cooking on the stove top in a little fat

And, because we're really grooving on it this fall, he paired the birds with a pumpkin sauce made from pureed roasted pumpkin, heavy cream, butter, and a little Korean chili sauce. He served it on a bed of asparagus and peas.

Roasted pumpkin

Pumpkin sauce in progress

The finished product


Flying birds are very different from roosting fowl. Pigeon is dark and irony like a duck but not nearly as fatty. The slightly sweet peas and rich pumpkin complemented the strong meaty flavor of the bird without subduing the nice gaminess that always makes me feel like I'm actually eating food. A good pumpkin sauce is actually very versatile, and Gareth's sauce was so good that it tasted really nice on everything, even the asparagus. The spelt provided a chewy backbone to the very lean pigeon meat. Overall, I was completely satisfied and could't have asked for a better first experience with this very tasty little bird.

Squab with pumpkin sauce on a bed of asparagus with peas and spelt

It was only after dinner that Gareth let me know he thought this was all a ploy on my part to make rabbit seem more normal. While it was not what I had been thinking at the time of the purchase, if it works out that way, so much the better.