Patrick Clark, a New Yorker who apprenticed with Michel Guerard in France and then ran the kitchens at Regine's, Odeon, Cafe Luxemburg and his own Cafe Metro in New York before finally joining Bice in Beverly Hills, loves introducing customers to his favorite game bird--squab. "Squab is the perfect choice for people who haven't had much experience eating game. It's less strong than venison or pheasant; it's easy to handle and lends itself to wonderful garnishes," said Clark.
For the upcoming holiday season, Clark suggests serving squab in a nest of wild rice and mushrooms. The secret to the unique flavor, however, is the addition of juniper berries, which Clark toasts and crushes for a subtle flavor explosion. "No one can ever detect the source of that flavor," he said. Nor will your guests. Juniper berries are available at spice counters of most gourmet grocery stores and supermarkets.
ROASTED SQUAB WITH WILD RICE AND MUSHROOMS
4 (1-pound) squab
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
3 cups hot water
Long sprig fresh thyme
Wild Rice and Mushrooms
Chopped fresh chervil
Remove wing tips of squab. Clean and truss squab. Season to taste inside and outside with salt and pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in skillet until hot. Roll squab in hot oil-butter mixture and saute until golden on all sides. Place birds in roasting pan and roast at 450 degrees 12 to 15 minutes or until medium rare (do not overcook). Remove to platter and let stand 10 minutes.
Carve breast and legs off birds and set aside to keep warm. Chop all bones. Remove excess fat from roasting pan and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Saute shallots in pan until tender. Add bones and cook 3 minutes. Add hot water and thyme sprig. Cook liquid over high heat until liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup. Discard thyme sprig. Press bones with liquid through sieve. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter to thicken slightly.
Reheat birds in oven 3 to 4 minutes. Pour any accumulated juices into prepared sauce. Serve each bird on bed of Wild Rice and Mushrooms. Pour sauce around platter or serve on side. Garnish with chopped chervil, if desired. Makes 4 servings.
Wild Rice and Mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
2 small shallots, finely chopped
5 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
6 ounces (1 cup) wild rice
3 cups chicken broth
2 or 3 juniper berries, toasted and crushed
Melt butter in saucepan. Add shallots and cook 4 to 5 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly. Add mushrooms and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice, broth and juniper berries. Bring to boil. Simmer 45 to 55 minutes, or until rice is tender and stock is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley. Makes 4 servings.