1. Using a large chef’s knife cut off the head of the squab and its feet. 02:03
2. Again using the chef’s knife, separate the wing by slicing partially through the joint then breaking it and slicing the rest of the way through. 02:18
3. Using a fillet knife, slice along both sides of the breastbone being careful not to slice down too far and keeping the blade close to the breastbone. Slice down the wishbone and down the back in a single stroke for each, and partially pop out the breastbone. Slice along the back and remove the breast and the wing bone, as well as the thigh and leg. Cut the thigh and leg off of the breast. 02:45
4. Score the wing bone all the way around where it is attached to the breast and pull off all of the meat on the wing bone, using a clean dishtowel as needed to help grip the slippery flesh. Leave the exposed wing bone attached, leaving the knucklebone intact or removing it with the chef’s knife as desired. 03:25
5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 with the other side of the squab. 04:10
6. Break the carcass to remove the guts; save the liver, and heart for other uses.* 04:24
7. To make a sauce with the carcass and bones, sear them in a very hot saucepan, and then make a stock with the bones, mirepoix, bay leaf, herbs, and water. Simmer until it is thickened and reduced.* 05:04
8. The thighs can be made into a tiny roulade. Cut off the leg bone, making sure to leave the thigh meat attached to its skin. Remove the leg bone from the thigh using small, delicate cuts. Pound out the thigh with the back of the chef’s knife until it is an even thickness. The meat can be filled with mirepoix, mushrooms, or truffles, then rolled, tied, and gently roasted or baked in the oven. To serve, slice in half and serve in two roundels alongside the breast. 05:41
9. To prepare the breasts, season them and sear them skin side down (one side only) then roast them in a 325 degree oven on a bed of thyme. 06:35
10. To break down the grouse, follow the same procedure as with the squab, slicing through the back and separating the breasts. Make sure to remove the skin of the grouse, as unlike the squab skin, it is not generally good to eat. The entire leg of the grouse can go into the stock, as the flavor of the breast is so strong it doesn’t need any additional meat on the plate. 07:32
What You'll Need
- Large chef’s knife
- Fillet knife
- Clean dishtowel
- Wild Scottish grouse*
*See Chef Notes for further information
Squab is an “unfledged” pigeon; in other words, a young pigeon that cannot yet fly. While it is sometimes hunted, squab is generally farmed and raised domestically. The squab meat is less gamey than grouse and other wild game birds as it has a cultivated diet.
Grouse has a wild, gamey odor and a very strong flavor. Chef Paul cautions that it may be too much for traditional American diners, but he loves it and says that adventurous eaters relish the sensory connection with the animal they are eating. The grouse has a darker flesh because it has a scavenged diet, and it has thinner breasts because it is a bird of flight. For hunted birds like the grouse (as opposed to farm-raised, like the squab), you need to make sure none of the shot remains in the bird.
Chef Paul “frenches out” the breast of the squab. This means that he leaves the wing joint attached to the breast but pulls off the meat and skin, leaving a bone “handle” attached. Some chefs leave the joint intact, but Chef Paul removes it. He states that by leaving the exposed bone attached in this fashion is a reminder that the diner is enjoying a game bird.
Most parts of the game bird can and should be used, though Chef Paul eschews using the head, feet, or stomach and intestines. The liver can be coated in flour and fried, then topped with Mornay sauce for a tasty snack or appetizer. The heart can be used in a stew or cooked with the bones/carcass of the bird in a stock. This stock is a wonderful complement to the cooked game bird breasts as it enriches the earthy flavor of the dish.
It is important to cook game birds delicately. Cooking slowly at a low temperature is best – less opportunity to overcook and lose the juices, which leads to tough meat. Cooking quickly at high heat will result in undesirable “bird jerky”