Squab (Any Small Bird) with Burnt Miso Butterscotch and Pomegranate-Walnut Salsa

Instead of having an oversize turkey, we had a much smaller bird for the Thanksgiving meal today. We had squabs. This sqaub recipe is adapted from Ottolenghi’s NOPI, which uses an even smaller bird, a quail.

Though small in foot prints, the squabs were packed with a big-flavor miso butterscotch paste and finished with a colorful pomegranate walnut salsa. This dish made up a light Thanksgiving fare for our family this year, together with gratin Dauphinios instead of mashed potatoes and the likes. A few vegetable sides. Fresh cranberries showed up in an apple galette for dessert. I’m glad that there was no leftovers to deal with afterwards. We licked our plates clean.

Every component of this dish rises above our expectations: the squab, the miso butterscotch paste and the pomegranate walnut salsa. I love each and every component of it and would use them separately or together with other combinations. I can see preparing duck breasts using both the paste and the salsa. Squab is not a novelty to us; the burnt miso butterscotch is. According to Ottolenghi, the inspiration for this dish came from David Chang’s Lucky Peach Magazine.

The miso butterscotch involves roasting a thin layer of miso paste on a parchment-lined baking sheet until it is almost burnt with a rich dark caramelized patina. After the caramel cools, it is mixed with mirin, brown sugar, butter and sherry vinegar in the food processor until a smooth aerated paste forms.

The smoky intoxicating aroma of barbecue wafted from the kitchen. We haven’t even gotten to cooking the squab yet. The miso butterscotch paste was spread evenly on the birds which had been sauteed over high heat in a pan. The dish came together very fast after this. Unlike turkeys, squabs took minutes to cook on the stovetop and even less time under the broiler. Broiling was the final step to caramelize the butterscotch paste until it bubbled over the squab. To serve, the pomegranate walnut salsa was spooned on top alongside with some chopped parsley (I substituted with green onion). I’ve never come across this technique of making a miso butterscotch paste before in my baking or cooking. It’s a revelation!

My daughter loves fresh pomegranate seeds. I seeded another whole pomegranate just in case and set it aside. There is never enough of them around; anything with pomegranate seeds in it disappears quickly. We had an interesting conversation whether pomegranate seeds should be used in the galette instead of cranberries. However, it’s never in doubt that the pomegranate salsa is a bright and perfect complement to the gamey flavor of squab. We are so thankful for such a delicious spread for Thanksgiving that is nourishing and much cherished. We’re also privileged to eat and cook in a time and place that’s a crossroads of culinary tradition and countless innovation.

Good wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to you all!



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  • Reply
    kitchen flavours
    November 30, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Such a beautiful and delicious Thanksgiving dish. Jewels of pomegranate looks so good served over the miso butterscotch squab! I can see why the plates was licked clean! I would too!

  • Reply
    Joyce Rachel Lee-Bates
    November 30, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Yeah, this is such a beautiful dish. The pomegranate seeds give it such a gorgeous look!

  • Reply
    Grace Phua
    December 1, 2015 at 8:35 am

    I love this dish!! It reminds me that christmas is looming v v near by. I love how pretty your dish looks with the reds and greens. I'm sure it taste even better.

  • Reply
    Lydia Filgueras
    December 1, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Sounds like an interesting combination. I would love to give it a try!

  • Reply
    Diane Zwang
    December 1, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Looks like a lovely Thanksgiving meal.

  • Reply
    Deb in Hawaii
    December 1, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Burnt Miso Butterscotch and Pomegranate-Walnut Salsa–sounds totally like Ottolenghi and Lucky Peach's recipes. 😉 I love how colorful it is on the plate. Perfectly festive for the holidays.

  • Reply
    December 6, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Wow! There are really no words to express how beautiful this dish is! Such an incredible and impressive looking bird. Hope you had a wonderful holiday. You have definitely made Ottolenghi proud with this dish!

  • Reply
    December 14, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    What an interesting combo. I would never have thought of putting those flavors together. Thank goodness for chefs like Ottolenghi.

  • Reply
    July 11, 2016 at 3:09 am

    That miso butterscotch cries out to me every time I open NOPI. Trouble is, I'm vegetarian. If I could think of ANYTHING else I could use it on, I'd make it like a shot.
    The chargrilled asparagus with romesco and apple-balsamic was my "farewell asparagus, miss you already" meal last week. Will make it again next season for sure. I quartered the veg and glaze to just serve me but made all the romesco and was so glad I did. Not the usual peppers and paprika version so I was intrigued but it's beautiful. Used it under goats cheese soft-scrambled eggs and then to make a sort of Jersey Royal patatas bravas…thing…and both worked well. I'll make the romesco alone before summer's out, I expect. Also enjoyed the pink pepper and capers crushed new potatoes. How can one not with herby confit garlic AND butter?! Beautiful balance of flavours. Which I think is a constant through the book. But it is that bit harder to cook from than Plenty and Plenty More; I'd say we're expected to know that bit more about how to cook and what's to be looked for. Understandable in a more "cheffy" book I suppose.
    Plenty and Plenty More are my current bibles but -meaty or no- NOPI has already inspired and seen more use than I expected. But OH for this miso butterscotch!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2016 at 3:37 am

    I cook more vegetables than meat. I won't limit using this miso butterscotch on meat alone. I can think of using it in sweet as well as savory application, without a specific dish in mind. I bet the sauce will elevate a tofu dish, a blank canvas for this innovative sauce. I was so excited when I first tasted it. Give it a try!

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