I live in a third-floor apartment, and
the ledge outside my living room window
is extremely popular with pigeons.
It is my cat’s firm belief that pigeons
exist solely to torment him. I’m not so
sure that he’s wrong.
So it was with a nod to Ernie that I
impulsively bought a squab when I saw it
in the Whole Foods meat case recently.
This was my first encounter with squab —
in its featherless form, I mean. A squab
is a young pigeon, generally around four
weeks old at the time it’s butchered.
It is a little smaller than a Cornish
game hen and has very dark meat, like a
It can be roasted whole, just like a
Cornish hen, and one squab serves one
person (or one cat) nicely.
However, I was auditioning this bird for
a dinner party, so I opted to butcher it
into six parts — two each of breasts,
wings and legs — and remove most of the
bones, a rather delicate operation.
I rubbed each piece with salt and
five-spice powder, a mixture of fennel,
anise, ginger, cinnamon and cloves,
available at Asian markets like Lee Lee
(at Dobson and Warner in Chandler).
Then I seared the pieces in a hot
skillet and finished them in a
400-degree oven. Squab parts are pretty
small, so this takes just a few minutes.
And do you know what? They were
delicious! Squab meat, I discovered, is
the beef tenderloin of birds: very
tender, with an appearance and texture
not so different from filet mignon.
I decided I needed to serve squab at my
party. So a few days later, I called the
friendly folks at the Whole Foods meat
department to reserve four of the frozen
“Well, theoretically that shouldn’t be
necessary,” said the man who took my
order. “They’re not our most popular
I guess I’m not the only one who’s been
Should you choose to experiment with
squab yourself, note that it’s best
But if you get caught up in
conversation, as, er, I did, it’s fine
on the rather more done side as well.
Just don’t cook it very well done, or it
will turn rubbery.
I paired my squab with a red Burgundy
wine and served it with a pinot noir
syrup inspired by Mark Bittman’s
terrific cookbook, The Minimalist
This is an easy and delicious sauce
based on caramelized sugar.
Here’s what you do:
In a small, heavy saucepan, heat ¼ cup
sugar over medium heat without stirring.
The sugar will liquefy, then start to
turn brown. When the liquid is golden
amber in color, remove the pan from the
heat, then carefully add one cup of
pinot noir or other red wine, like Côtes
du Rhône. The wine will sputter as it
hits the hot syrup.
Return the pan to the heat and stir
until the hardened caramel dissolves.
Then reduce the mixture until it’s
syrupy and about ¼ cup in volume. This
should yield enough sauce for two.
When I tried to triple this recipe, the
sugar on the bottom of my pan started
browning before the sugar on top had
When I stirred the sugar to redistribute
it, things got worse: the mixture seized
up into hard rocks.
But I persevered, stirring and smashing
the sugar until my rocks were evenly
brown. Then I added the wine and
proceeded with the recipe, and the sauce
turned out just fine.
Ernie, it should be noted, prefers his
squab unadorned. Indeed, he’s just
waiting for his chance to catch one on