It has been a hectic couple of weeks between the NYC trip and Thanksgiving festivities, but I did want to report back on the pre-thanksgiving dinner I cooked in NYC (as described in Maria’s post, “A Trio of Thanksgiving Menus”). I did indeed cook squabs, which I ordered fresh from Florence Meat Market on Jones St. in the West Village (thanks to advice on where to find them from Elizabeth Beier – my brother’s foodie editor friend at St. Martin’s Press). And for the noshes – we ended up going to Murray’s Cheese Shop, which has expanded since I’ve last been, but still has all the character of the old spot across the street (at one point one of the salespersons came up with cheese quote of the day – “Wisconsin – the Spain of America!”). We bought way too much of the Chevrot (their most popular goat cheese, we were told), as well as the Brebis/Ossau Iraty (one of my all time faves – a french sheep’s milk cheese, from the Pyrenees – and this has to be one of the best I’ve tasted), and one I purchased just by sight, an Adrahan from County Cork, so gooey and pungent that my friend Lizzy at first guessed was an Epoisse. It was awesome – if you love stinky cheese like me. Lenny actually brought some of each home in his backpack on the plane and every time he opened it the poor woman next to him made a face. Sorry lady!
For the first course Lizzie made the wonderful Michael Chiarella Panzanella (this is the remains after we served the 7 of us – the photo doesn’t do it justice). It was the perfect first course for this meal and I’d say a great addition to any holiday menu depending on what else you have going on. It is a salad of brussell sprouts, roasted squash, blooming red onion (really! but bloomed in Sherry vinegar) and croutons.
The squabs and purees were a challenge in the small Manhattan studio kitchen – but we did it. John made the celery root and turnip puree the night before. Then in the morning we made the vichy carrot puree together. We found we had oversalted both, but they were still pretty damn good. I made the chestnut puree before the guests arrived, but this time I was careful with the salt. We bought the canned chestnuts instead of the vacuum packed as they were $10 per 7 oz at Whole Foods and the canned were only (!) $7 per 10 oz.. But I have worked with the canned ones before, and they are soggy, so we roasted them in the oven instead of boiling them and they came out great. I liked them all but I think the chestnut puree definitely was the best of the 3.
As for the squab – I felt I had to “meet” them as I’d never cooked with them before, so before people came (invite was 7:30 but in good NYC form the first person didn’t arrive until 7:50 and most came after 8) (just as an aside, NYC was crazed the whole time we were there, so not surprisingly people were stuck in traffic, or there were no cabs to be found – and much to the chagrin of our friend arranging a surprise 50th birthday party for her husband at Tao the night before – that was an experience, to say the least).
I’m digressing. So, here are the squabs in all their glory.
John’s boyfriend Brian was so excited he wanted to name them (like we did the lobsters he had flown in to Michigan from Maine last summer), but I nixed that. They were already freaking me out a little (plus people kept making jokes about them being caught yesterday in Central Park).
Then we/I got them ready to go (I chose this photo because it gives you a sense of the constraints of the NYC kitchen I was dealing with).
Then – after a monumental feat of teamwork – we pan-seared and roasted the squabs, and my brother and I got the purees all to the right temperature, cut the 7 birds in half plate and add the purees to each plate … TA DA! The final product!
The apple tart never happened as Lizzie had to work on Saturday – but Brian brought a variety of desserts from WF and we ate those and played show tunes and drank wine until the not-too-wee-hours – all in all I think the whole night was a smashing success. I hope our guests did too!