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!