Squab glazed with port reduction with creamy polenta

Squab is one of my favorite meats – it is dark and a little bit gamey, and because these birds are so small – it cooks quickly. Like other game, squab goes well with sweet sauces – and in this case I made my favorite port reduction that has been already featured in previous posts: Duck breast over port and sour cherry reduction and Venison roulade stuffed with pistachio puree. 


serves: 8        difficulty: medium      prep time: 30 min to prep + 2 hrs to cook


Ingredients

  • 4 squabs (1/2 per person)

For the sauce

  • 2 tbs canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup diced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • [optional] 10-12 dried sour cherries

For the polenta

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 tbs butter
  • left over rinds from Pargmigiano Reggiano (if you happen to have them).

Preparation

First prepare the squab. Rinse each squab inside and out with cold water, and pat dry very well with paper towel.

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To break down each bird, you need a heavy knife or a cleaver, and a smaller pairing knife.  Place the birds breast side up on a work surface.

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First, cut out the wings to the first joint. Then lift the breast from the tail end, and with the heavy knife or cleaver cut through the backbone of the bird to sever the thighs and legs. At this point the bird should look like the picture below.

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Then cut out the breast meat. Starting from the breast bone in the middle of the breast, cut lengthwise as close to the bone as possible. As the knife hits the rib cage, turn the knife away from the breast bone, and follow with the knife until you have cut out the entire breast. Repeat with the other breast on the other side.

To cut out the thigh and the leg, hold the lower part of the bird with both hands, and with your thumbs feel where the thigh bone attaches to the body. With both hands simultaneously twist downwards to dislocate the thigh bone. Place the bird on the work surface again, and cut out the thigh where you dislocated the thigh bone. Repeat with the other thigh. At this point you should have both breasts and legs removed as shown below.

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You can discard the rest of the carcass. Repeat this butchering procedure with the remaining 3 birds.

Then season the breasts and legs with salt and pepper. Place them in nylon bag, and vacuum seal. Cook the squab in the sous vide machine at 130 degrees for 2 hrs.

While the squab is cooking in the sous vide machine, prepare the port reduction and cook the polenta. In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the shallots until translucent. Add the port wine and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and the bay leave. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup.

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Remove from the heat and strain.  While the reduction is still warm, add the dried sour cherries (if you are using them), and let rest. 

Next cook the polenta. Place the milk and chicken stock in a pot, and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, add the polenta slowly while constantly stirring. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and simmer for 20 min. You need to stir the polenta often – as often as every min – because it will have the tendency to stick to the bottom and burn because of the milk. It will thicken quickly, and if it thickens too much – add some more chicken stock or water. After 20 min add the cheese rind. I never discard the rinds from Parmigiano – because I always use them when I cook polenta.

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Continue simmering it for another 30 min, while stirring often and add more liquid if needed. Don’t worry too much if it burns slightly on the bottom, and there is a brown crust mixed in it (as it happened on the picture above). Remove from the heat and stir in the butter.

Remove the squab from the sous vide bag and arrange on a baking sheet skin side up. Turn on the broiler of your oven and position a rack 2 inches away from the broiler.  Brush port reduction over the skin and place the baking dish under the broiler.  Broil for 1 min bu note that the port reduction contains a lot of sugar which will burn quickly, so you need to watch the squab constantly. Remove from the oven, brush with port reduction again, place under the broiler for another min. The goal is for the squab skin to be crisp but not burned.

To plate, spoon 1/2 cup of polenta on each plate spoon some port reduction next to it, and add one breast and one leg on top of the reduction.

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