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Honey-lacquered squab with gingered nappa cabbage and fennel-pear puree

Honey-lacquered squab with gingered nappa cabbage and fennel-pear puree
Los Angeles Times

There were days a couple of years ago when you might have spotted Lee Hefter, executive chef of Spago Beverly Hills, prowling through shops in Chinatown searching for an ingredient that then was almost impossible to find -- Sichuan peppercorns. ... Read more

Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Serves 2

Sichuan pepper-salt

  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns

Step 1In a small heavy-bottomed pot, slowly roast the salt and peppercorns over low-medium heat until very aromatic, about 20 minutes.

Step 2Cool. Grind in a spice grinder and sift through fine sieve. Set aside.

Fennel-pear puree

  • 1 head fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and diced large
  • 1/4 cup verjus
  • 1 small or 1/2 large star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Step 1Combine the fennel, pears, verjus, anise, sugar and salt in a heavy-bottom pot.

Step 2Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until everything is very tender, about 30 minutes.

Step 3Remove the star anise and puree in a high-speed blender until smooth.

Step 4Adjust the seasoning and pass through a fine sieve. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 1 cup.

Gingered nappa cabbage

  • 1/4 head nappa cabbage
  • 1/4 head radicchio
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups packed spinach leaves (1 ounce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each finely chopped ginger, garlic and scallions, pounded into puree together using a mortar and pestle
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins, rehydrated in hot water for 20 minutes and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Step 1Chop the cabbage and radicchio into 1-inch dice.

Step 2Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Saute the cabbage, spinach and radicchio separately until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes each. Return all the sauteed greens to the pan.

Step 3Add the ginger, garlic and scallion puree to the greens and cook until aromatic, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Step 4Add the raisins, vinegar, salt and sugar. Remove from the stove and dress with sesame oil. Makes 2 cups.

Squab and assembly

  • 2 whole squabs, backbones, breastbones and ribs removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan pepper-salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Fennel-pear puree
  • Gingered nappa cabbage
  • Chinese 5-spice

Step 1One hour before cooking, season the squab on both sides with the Sichuan pepper-salt.

Step 2Put the honey in a heavy-bottomed sauce pot and cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes until it becomes reduced and thick. Set aside.

Step 3Grill the squabs, skin side down over high heat until golden brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 4Turn; sear the other sides for 1 to 2 minutes and then rest the squab on a plate for 5 minutes. The squab will be medium-rare.

Step 5Brush the skin sides with a thin coat of warm honey. Return it to the hot grill before serving to lightly caramelize the skin for 1 minute on each side. Carve the squabs, slicing the breast meat.

Step 6On a serving platter, make a line of the hot fennel-pear puree from one end to the other. Arrange the gingered cabbage in the center and the carved squabs around it. Arrange the legs standing up against the cabbage. Sprinkle Sichuan pepper-salt on the sliced breast. Dust the plate with Chinese 5-spice.

Note: Adapted from Lee Hefter, executive chef of Spago Beverly Hills. The restaurant uses Carpenter Ranch squab. Verjus is a natural juice of seedless, unripened green grapes.


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