Since the squab is a small bird, Chef Maxwell suggests cooking one per person if it is to be a main course and half per person if it is an appetizer. This recipe is for appetizer-sized portions. Maxwell notes that the two-step cooking process outlined in this recipe is important because the leg and thigh of the squab contain tendons that will be unpleasantly chewy if not cooked until at least medium well, but the rest of the bird should be served medium or rare for maximum tenderness. Maxwell pairs the squab with a wilted frisée lettuce, but says you can substitute escarole if you wish.
Wine recommendations: Dr. Konstantin Frank 1999 Salmon Run Johannisberg Riesling (Finger Lakes), Lenz 1997 Gewürtztraminer (North Fork of Long Island). Among non-New York options, try a Spätlese Riesling from Germany's Rheingau.
For the squab
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 head frisée lettuce
4 slices foie gras, scored on 1 side (optional)
For the sauce
3/4 cup ice wine or sweet Riesling
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
Truss squabs (tie legs together so their breasts will plump). Season with salt and pepper and brush with butter. Heat oven to 350°F. In an oven-proof roasting pan set on stove over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil until it ripples. Place squabs into pan in a single layer and sear on all sides, about 2 minutes each, or until skin is crisp and golden brown. Transfer pan into oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let squab rest for about 5 minutes. Cut off the legs and thighs, place them into another roasting pan and return to oven to roast for 5 more minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut off each breast half in a single piece; transfer to a platter and keep warm.
For the sauce, pour ice wine or Riesling into original roasting pan, scraping up any bits of squab stuck to the bottom. Pour into saucepan, add chicken stock and heat over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until reduced in volume to 1/4 cup.
If using foie gras, heat another pan (at least 10 inches wide), until drops of water sizzle when sprinkled on the surface. Do not add oil or other fat. Place foie gras slices into it in a single layer, scored side down, and cook for about 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from heat and keep warm.
In still another pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until it ripples. Add shallot and cook for about 3 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add frisée and cook for about 8 to 10 seconds, or until lightly wilted.
Remove squab pieces from oven. Divide wilted vegetables evenly between four plates and place a leg and thigh on the back of each mound. Slice each breast half twice, to yield three slices each. Fan slices in front of the mound and, if serving, lean foie gras to the left. Drizzle with sauce and serve immediately.