Roast Squabs with Porcini and Country Bread Salad

I used a variety of wild mushrooms from a farmer's market. They were great and better using 2x the amount called for in the recipe. I also added a diced onion to the fat just after the pigeon was thoroughly browned. After 2-3 minutes, I added some of the mushrooms, keeping the onion to one side of the pan until transulent. It took three groups of mushrooms to finish, and the juice from the mushrooms meant that I didn't need to add duck fat after the first 1.5 TBS. I then mixed the cooked onion and mushrooms and stuffed some of it into the bird cavities with more thyme (still on the stems) than the recipe calls for. It isn't necessary to make the garlic confit puree (the first time I just used crushed garlic), but if you have the time, the full cloves of garlic are nice in the bread salad. It is important to cut the crust off the sourdough, or else the hard crust pieces overpower the salad. The pigeon does have a strong flavor, but I think it's much more interesting than game hen, which is almost as commercial as chicken. When eating, it is easiest to first remove the legs and wings at the joints (important to give permission to use fingers), then cut down from the top of each breast to remove the meat. I provided a warm towel to clean fingers. The kids loved the dish and the "tom jones" effort.

Roast Squabs with Porcini and Country Bread Salad

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  • Prep Time


  • Total Time


  • Servings



  • 12

    garlic cloves, peeled

  • 1

    tablespoon fine sea salt

  • 1

    (10-inch) round or oval sourdough loaf (1½ lb),

  • crust discarded

  • 9

    fresh porcini (cèpes; ¾ lb), trimmed

  • 3

    (1-lb) squabs

  • 3

    large sprigs fresh thyme

  • 3

    tablespoons garlic confit purée garlic confit purée

  • 6

    tablespoons strained duck fat

  • (from garlic confit purée )

  • cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 1

    tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste


Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring 2 cups water, garlic, and 1 teaspoon sea salt to a boil, then drain in a colander. Blanch garlic in same manner 2 more times. Cut bread into 1/4-inch-thick sticks and toast on a baking sheet in middle of oven until pale golden, about 6 minutes. Leave oven on. Peel stems of porcini with a sharp small knife just until white flesh is exposed, then quarter mushrooms lengthwise. Pat squabs dry and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Put a sprig of thyme in cavity of each squab and divide garlic confit among cavities. Tie legs of squabs together with kitchen string and fold wings back. Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown squabs in 2 batches, turning, about 5 minutes, transferring to a plate and reserving skillet. Add 1 1/2 more tablespoons duck fat to skillet and sauté porcini in 2 batches over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes (add another 1 1/2 tablespoons duck fat to skillet for second batch). Stir in blanched garlic, toasted bread, and salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat. Put a 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan on bottom rack of oven (to catch drips) and arrange squabs, breast sides up, in a small circle (without touching) on middle rack of oven directly above baking pan. Roast squabs, carefully basting once with remaining tablespoon duck fat, 15 minutes. Replace baking pan with skillet of bread salad, positioning it directly under birds. Roast squabs and bread salad until an instant-read thermometer inserted in fleshy part of a thigh (avoid bone) registers 155°F for medium meat and mushrooms in bread salad are tender, about 5 minutes. (If mushrooms are not tender, roast bread salad 5 to 8 minutes more.) Transfer squabs to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes, then halve lengthwise with poultry shears or a sharp knife. Toss bread salad with parsley and lemon juice and serve with squabs. Cooks' notes: • Squabs may be stuffed and tied 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Pat dry just before browning. • Bread may be toasted 2 days ahead, cooled completely, and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.


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