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Prep 2 hrs
Cook 0 mins
Adapted from Lee Hefter, executive chef of Spago Beverly Hills. Verjus is a natural juice of seedless, unripened green grapes. Sichuan peppercorns are reddish pink and have a unique flavor. Once you make the various components, final prep and service are easy. And since the squab needs an hour of sitting in the rub, you can make the puree and the cabbage while the squab rests in its rub.
For the Sichuan pepper-salt
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon szechuan peppercorns
For the Fennel-Pear Puree
- 1 head fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 1⁄2 bartlett pears, peeled, cored and diced large
- 1⁄4 cup grape juice, fresh (verjus, a term Zaar's computer won't accept)
- 1 small star anise (or 1/2 large)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
For the Gingered Napa Cabbage
- 1⁄4 head napa cabbage
- 1⁄4 head radicchio
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 2 cups spinach leaves, packed
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ginger, fresh, grated
- 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1⁄2 teaspoon scallion, minced
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins, softened in hot water and chopped
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sherry wine vinegar
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sugar
- 1⁄4 teaspoon sesame oil
For the Squab and assembly
- 2 squab, backbones, breastbones and ribs removed
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 1⁄2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
- For the Sichuan pepper-salt:.
- In a small heavy-bottomed pot, slowly roast the salt and peppercorns over low-medium heat until very aromatic, about 20 minutes.
- Cool; grind in a spice grinder and sift through fine sieve and set aside.
- For the Fennel-Pear Purée:.
- Combine the fennel, pears, verjus, anise, sugar and salt in a heavy-bottom pot.
- Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until everything is very tender, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the star anise and purée in a high-speed blender until smooth.
- Adjust the seasoning and pass through a fine sieve and keep warm until ready to serve (should be about i cup of puree).
- For the Gingered Napa Cabbage.
- Chop the cabbage and radicchio into 1-inch dice.
- Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over low heat.
- Sauté the cabbage, spinach and radicchio separately until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes each.
- While the cabbage and radicchio are sautéing, use a mortar and pestle to reduce the ginger, garlic and scallions to a paste.
- Return all the sautéed greens to the pan.
- Add the ginger, garlic and scallion paste to the greens and cook until aromatic, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the raisins, vinegar, salt and sugar. Remove from the stove and dress with sesame oil (should be about 2 cups of the cabbage mixture).
- For the Squab and assembly.
- One hour before cooking, season the squab on both sides with the Sichuan pepper-salt (use as much as you like--at least 1/2 teaspoon).
- Put the honey in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes until it becomes reduced and thick. Set aside.
- Grill the squabs, skin side down over high heat until golden brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Turn; sear the other sides for 1 to 2 minutes and then rest the squab on a plate for 5 minutes (the squab will be medium-rare).
- Brush the skin sides with a thin coat of warm honey.
- Return it to the hot grill before serving to lightly caramelize the skin for 1 minute on each side.
- Carve the squabs, slicing the breast meat.
- On a serving platter, make a line of the hot fennel-pear purée from one end to the other. Arrange the gingered cabbage in the center and the carved squabs around it.
- Arrange the legs standing up against the cabbage.
- Sprinkle Sichuan pepper-salt on the sliced breast.
- Dust the plate with Chinese 5-spice powder.
This recipe is not as daunting as it would appear. I love that the ingredients are listed individually for each of the four components. Because we were five for dinner, obviously quantities had to be adjusted. (No hardship; my math is pretty good) Preparation of each component was made well in advance of the dinner hour, and that is the key to a successful outcome. Fortunately, these components lend themselves quite nicely to advance preparation. It was a simple matter of finishing each step just before serving. 1)The Fennel-Pear Puree reheats successfully. 2) The Napa Cabbage in combination with radicchio and spinach leaves creates a tasty red, white and green complement to an already deliciously crisp and tender squab. Following instructions at Steps 15 and 16 ensured this success completion. 3) I do not mess with other people's recipes because change creates a different outcome from what was originally intended. This time, however, while the honey was reheating, and just before brushing the squab skin, with the warm honey, I did add a dash of Chinese five spice powder to the honey and allowed the birdies to respond with crispness; I then sliced the breast meat accordingly and presented as instructed. 4) The serving platter is rectangular. I made a line of the hot Fennel-Pear Puree, from corner to corner creating 4 distinct divisions, for final assembly and presentation. One serving mound of the gingered cabbage and squab into each "division" and a fifth in the centre of the platter, with the squab legs standing up against each "mound" was appealing to the eye. Four guests and their hostess were absolutely delighted with your recipe, Chef Kate. Would I do this again? Definitely. Would I recommend this? Most assuredly. I hereby crown this recipe with 5 thumbs up! (only because that is the maximum allowed).