Saturday, April 26, 2014

American Cooking: Broiled Squab with Lemon-Soy Butter and Spoon Bread

This book provides a summary of what American cooking looked like, at least in restaurants and for important family meals, in the late 60s and early 70s. There are some things that I recognize here, but others that I find hard-pressed to place as American, for example, the Broiled Squab with Lemon-Soy Butter (p55) that I made for tonight's dinner. Soy sauce would be starting to be used for general cooking along about this time, having been adopted from Chinese restaurants, but squab?

A squab, for those of us who can't get further than "it's a small bird" is an unfledged pigeon (i.e., it hasn't yet flown from the nest). This translated to pigeonneau in my French food dictionary. When I asked at the butcher's counter for deux pigeonneaux s'il vous plaît, he gave me two pigeony bird, but judging by the weight—my two birds were about a pound each—I'd guess these were adult birds rather than babies. And, surprise, they came complete with heart and liver and other "scary bits," as my friend Hennie calls them. (It's not normal to get innards with your birds here.) I removed these, spatchcocked the birdies, flattened them, salted and peppered, dipped them in the butter, soy sauce, and lemon juice mixture, then broiled them, basting when they got turned. They took more than the advertised 6 minutes per side to cook, but I expect that was because of the extra size.

The author recommends serving the birds with Spoon Bread (p89). Now, spoon bread really is an American tradition, southern, I think, but I've never had it or made it before. After dinner, I looked at other spoon bread recipes and found that most included either baking powder or soda (if buttermilk was called for) to raise the bread. This recipe depends only on the egg white for lift, making it really a kind of soufflé. But it's very good and was especially good for sopping up all the juices.

The lemon-soy butter was a very good basting sauce. I might use this on a plain old chicken one day. The pigeons were good, with lovely dark meat rather like duck but not so gamey in taste. A a bit pricey for everyday eating, though.

We both enjoyed the spoon bread. Part of the leftovers with get toasted for breakfast, I expect, and the rest used for some kind of soup or stew at lunch, whatever the freezer has to offer. (The pigeon bones went in the freezer sack with chicken bones and will get used for the next batch of stock that I make.)

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