I love roasting small birds, whether for myself or company, since each one is basically a single serving, easy to present without carving.
You can use squab, baby chicken, quail or game hen, whatever you can find. It’s game season in France, so I had plenty to choose from, including perdreau, or partridge to you and me.
Dried figs and red wine make a simple sauce that can be put together while the birds roast.
Roast Squab with Figs
4 squab or other small birds, such as quail, game hen or baby chicken
4 slices bacon
4 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons (1 oz/30 g) soft butter
Salt and pepper
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon (1/2 oz/15 g) butter
1 shallot, minced
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup (240 ml) chicken broth
1 cup (240 ml) port wine
8 dried Calimyrna figs, halved
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. Rinse and thoroughly dry the birds. Season inside and out with salt and pepper, rub with the butter and put a sprig of thyme in the cavity of each. Lay a strip of bacon across the breast of each bird (cut the strips in half if they are long). Tie the legs together if you wish.
3. Put the birds in a shallow roasting pan and roast until done, about 30–40 minutes, basting every 7 minutes or so.
4. In the meantime, make the sauce. In a saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. When it is foaming, add the shallot and cook until translucent. Add the thyme, bay, figs and honey, and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth and port and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce has reduced by at least half and thickened slightly. Add any juices from the roasting pan to the sauce, then taste for seasoning. Serve the birds surrounded by the sauce and some of the figs.