Pigeon (squab) two ways, served with peas, snap peas, pea shoots, and its Cognac flambéed sauce

The Picasso's recipe is missing!

Le pigeon aux petits pois 
by Picasso
Le pigeon aux petits pois (the pigeon with peas) is (or was?) a 1911 cubist painting by Picasso. This pigeon became famous again a century later as it literally flew away* from the Musée des Arts modernes of Paris where it was exposed, and was supposedly destroyed by its thieves... 
Well, if this was obviously a significant loss for the world of arts, the prejudice was more limited culinary-wise since, between you and me, the recipe proposed by the Master Picasso was slightly obscure, as you can figure it out by yourself...

* In French, "to steal" and "to fly" translate by the same word, voler.

All about gaminess and sweetness

But the Picasso's pigeons aux petits pois is not only a valuable painting... and alliteration, this is also a refined dish much appreciated by gourmet foodies all over the world, and of course in France, where it is proposed on the menus of multiple grand restaurants. The association and the contrast between the (not-exaggeratedly) squab's gaminess, the sweetness of the peas and the woodiness of the Cognac sauce is just sublime...

Ingredients (2 servings)

  • 2 squabs of around 1 lb. each, with giblets
  • Peas
  • Snap peas
  • Pea shoots
  • Duck fat
  • Around 3 oz of chorizo or pepperoni sausage (or bacon), finely diced, 1.5 oz for stuffing and 1.5 oz for the peas
  •  Bread crumb softened in milk
  • 1/2 egg white
  • 1 shot of Cognac
  • 1/2 glass of red wine
  • 1 shallot clove, thinly diced, 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Thyme, pepper or Espelette, salt


Preparation of the squab:

  • Remove the liver, the heart and the gizzard
  • Cut and remove the legs, and remove the thigh bone 
  • Cut the neck
  • Cut the wing tips and the mid-joint wings (just leave the drumettes)
  • Remove the rear part of the back (it comes off easily)
  • Cut the skin in excess

You get what is called in French the bateau (literally the "boat"). It is important to cook the squab (I would say the same for any small poultry) as it will avoid that the meat "shrinks" and t will keep it moist.

Keep preciously all the pieces you removed, you will use all of them (well, except the extra skin pieces)

Preparation of the sauce:

  • Sauté in 1 tbsp. of duck fat: half of the diced shallot, the neck, the wing parts, the rear back, and the thigh bones
  • Add the cognac and flambé
  • Add the wine and let the alcohol evaporate
  • Complete with 1/2 glass of water
  • Add the bay leaf, the thyme, S&P (moderately, it will reduce)
  • Put to boil, then simmer and let reduce
Stuffing and cooking of the legs:
  • Chop the liver, the heat and the gizzard in small
  • Do the same with the pepperoni
  • Gently cook in 1 tsp. of duck fat: the other half of the diced shallot, the giblets and the pepperoni sausage for around 5 minutes
  • Mix with the crumb and the egg white, and roughly blend the whole to obtain a "coarse" stuffing
  • Place the stuffing on the boned inside part of the thighs, and fold it
  • Tightly wrap the whole legs in a cooking cling wrap
  • Poach the leg in the simmering sauce, ensuring the stuffed thigh part is totally immersed, for around 6-8 minutes
  • Carefully unwrap the legs and roast them gently in duck fat to color them
  • Reserve in a warm oven
The peas and snap peas:
  • Blanch the snap peas 4 minutes in salted boiling water (30/40 g of salt per liter)
  • Blanch the peas 2 minutes
  • Plunge the peas and snap peas in iced water to fix the color
  • Strain them
  • Gently cook them with 1 tsp. of duck fat, the diced pepperoni, and the remaining stuffing, for around 5 minutes 

Cooking of the squab "boat":
  • Sauté the squab "boat" in duck fat, till lightly browned on each side
  • Deglaze the cooking pan with little bit of wine or water and add to the sauce
  • Finish roasting the squab for 6 minutes in the preheated 350 F oven
  • Take out of the oven and pour the juice rendered by the squab in the sauce    
  • Let rest the squab for another 6 minutes
Place the squab "boat" and the stuffed legs on a bed of peas and snow peas, pour some sauce, spread the pea shoots and some pink pepper corns.
Served with a Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes 1999 red (pinot noir / côte de Beaune).