Poussin with squash and parmasan breadcrumbs

November 2, 2009

I’ll come clean straight away and admit that I didn’t even attempt to cook this using the two electric hobs on my corridor. I happily went home for a couple of days, and was able to make the most of my delightfully familiar London kitchen, with a gas hob and a three shelved oven!

Halloween passed without making much of an impact on me. I spent Saturday night watching Cabaret (the original Liza Minelli version), which for the most part wasn’t particularly scary. I thought I would make up for it by cooking squash on Sunday, as I’d been musing on game and squash for a while. I also wanted to try a new cooking method, which I can’t believe I was previously ignorant of. I’d always peeled and cubed butternut squash, but saw it cooked skin on in thick, sort of crescent shape slices the other day, which is not only quicker to prepare but, it turns out, really tasty.

I do like to have stuffing with poultry, mainly because I get a great deal of pleasure out of whizzing up breadcrumbs. I often make a parmesan and raisin stuffing to serve with chicken or pork, and was inspired by the tradition of serving breadcrumbs with game to adapt that into the toasted breadcrumbs below. These quantities give more than you strictly need for four people, but we finished them because the combination of pine nuts, parmesan and crispy breadcrumbs is incredibly moorish! I think that this savory granola would be delicious with juicy pancetta cubes and spinach as a starter.

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 200C/190 Fan/gas 5. Half and deseed 1 medium butternut squash, and cut into 3/4 inch slices.  Peel 5 cloves of garlic; finely slice three and put the other two aside. Tip the squash and sliced garlic into to a roasting tray, adding a glug of olive oil and 1 tsp ground ginger, and toss it all together with salt and pepper.

Rub 25g of butter over 2 poussin, and season well all over. Divide a lemon into quarters. Use kitchen scissors to cut 4 rashers streaky bacon in half. Peel and halve 5 shallots. Put a lemon quarter, garlic clove and 2 dried sage leaves into the cavity of each bird, and lay the bacon over the top. Arrange the birds with the shallots and 1/2 cup water in a roasting tray. Put the poussin on the top shelf of the oven with the squash underneath. Roast the birds for 45-50 minutes, until the juices run clear and the leg comes easily away from the breast.

Roughly chop a handful of dried dates and 3 slices stale white bread and pulse until you have fine breadcrumbs. Add a handful of pine nuts and a handful  of grated parmesan.

Heat 1 tsp sunflower oil in a heavy frying pan. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Fry for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are brown and crispy.

When the birds are cooked, take them out but leave the butternut squash. Remove to a plate, cover with tin foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Put the roasting tray on the hob over a medium heat; when bubbling, deglaze with 100ml red wine, scraping furiously to get all the tasty sticky bits into your gravy. Add 150ml vegetable stock and a pinch of gravy powder and continue stirring up the sediment. Take off the heat and skim off any fat. Strain through a sieve into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then turn down to simmer while you carve the poussin into 4 breast and 4 leg portions. Serve the squash and poussin with the breadcrumbs sprinkled over the top. This thin gravy is best suited to being put in a jug and served on the table.

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