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PETTO DI PICCIONE AI PORCINIIn a traditional Italian meal, squab would be served as a meat course. But in my restaurants, I’ve noticed that many American diners—for whom game birds are a rarity, if not a novelty—are more comfortable eating squab as an appetizer or first course. The beauty of this dish is that it’s vegetable-heavy enough to be served as either a starter or a main course.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 2 squab, about 1 pound each, split in half by your
  • butcher
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small head of garlic, halved horizontally, plus 1
  • garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 sage sprig
  • 1½ teaspoons juniper berries
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup Dark Chicken Stock
  • Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 medium porcini mushrooms, trimmed and thickly
  • sliced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) spinach leaves
How to Make It
  1. osition a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat a cast-iron skillet large enough to hold the 4 squab halves over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the canola oil, tilting and turning the pan to coat it, and heat the oil. Season the squab all over with salt and pepper. Add the squab to the pan, skin side down, and brown, pressing down with a spatula to ensure even cooking and a crispy brown skin, 3 to 4 minutes, then turn and brown on the second side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully pour off and discard the oil from the pan, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil.
  3. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast the squab for 6 to 7 minutes.
  4. Return the pan to the stovetop over medium-high heat, add the head of garlic, rosemary, sage, juniper berries, and 2 tablespoons of the butter, and cook, basting the squab with the butter, for 2 to 3 minutes, taking care not to burn the butter. Transfer the squab halves to a rack set over a baking sheet and loosely tent with foil. Drain the fat from the pan into a heatproof liquid measuring cup, then discard all but 2 tablespoons of it, along with the garlic and herbs. Set the reserved fat aside.
  5. Add the wine to the pan, stirring to loosen any flavorful bits cooked onto the bottom, bring to a simmer, and simmer until almost completely evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a simmer, and reduce by three quarters, 6 to 8 minutes. Add a few drops of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the porcini (in batches if necessary), season with salt and pepper, and sauté until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat it. Add the shallots and sliced garlic and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and melt it, then add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add a few drops of lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Spoon some sauce onto each of 4 plates. Top with a squab half and drizzle with some of the reserved fat (when the fat meets the sauce, it will “break” it). Arrange the spinach and porcini alongside the squab and serve.
  8. Variation In the fall, finish the sauce by shaving some black truffle into it just before serving.

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