Broiled Squab with Jordan Almonds

Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Jean-Georges Vongerichten, with whom I've cooked regularly for ten years, is fiercely and determinedly restless. The dishes he created in the late eighties are standards in dozens of restaurants today, and they're almost as fresh and inspired as they were back then. He could've stopped being inventive twenty years ago and he'd still be considered a top chef.

Yet he continues to invent. Some of his innovations don't work, and he's the first to admit it (I especially remember some turmeric cookies that set us both laughing). Others sound goofy but can make you ecstatic upon tasting. This combination of sweet, crunchy nuts with gamy, rich squab is just such a dish.

The simple boning technique, in which the wing is left intact, protecting the breast against overcooking, can be used with any bird, including chicken. You can substitute quail (just split them in half) or even Cornish game hens for the squab; the results will be somewhat less flavorful but much less expensive.

You can buy Jordan almonds in the candy section of most supermarkets-or in a movie theater!

Jean-Georges served this with Chive Spaetzle (see page 196 in the companion book).

 

4 squab, innards and excess fat removed, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
Salt and black pepper
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (6 to 8 ounces, depending on size) Jordan almonds, finely
chopped with a knife or food processor or crushed with the back of a
skillet

1. Preheat the broiler; the heat should be as high as possible, the rack set 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Place the bird on its back on a cutting board. Using a sharp boning knife, begin at the breastbone and, following the bone, cut straight down through the bird. Cut through the shoulder joint, where the wing meets the body. Using your hands, pop out the hip joint and separate the thigh from the body, then cut through the skin, meat, and tendons with the knife. You will have a half bird; handle it gently, since the leg and breast quarters are held together by nothing more than skin. Repeat the process for the other half of the bird. Reserve or discard carcasses.

2. Sprinkle the birds all over with salt and pepper. Smear some of the butter on the bottom of a roasting pan (or whatever you're using to broil)  and the rest all over the birds. Put the birds skin sides up in the pan and sprinkle with the crushed almonds; broil, adjusting either the heat or the rack distance, so the almonds melt and the top of the bird browns while the meat cooks through. Squab is best medium-rare (about 125°F on an instant-read thermometer), so the cooking time usually will be between 10 and 15 minutes. Serve, spooning the pan juices over the birds.