Popping up on our menu as often as we can get it, pigeon from Paine Farm in Sonoma is a continual source of inspiration for our kitchen.
Farmer Philip Paine spent years taking meticulous notes of his breeding stock in order to stabilize the production and quality of his remarkable fowl — and it shows! Highly prized amongst the best chefs in the Bay Area, there never seems to be enough pigeon from Paine Farm to go around. Scarcer in winter, more abundant when the weather warms, we ensure some portion of security by keeping a standing order with Philip, and we feel lucky to receive what we can.
If you haven’t had Paine Farm pigeon, it is something like duck, but leaner, less gamey, and most glorious. Harvested just as they begin to mature, they are not so young that the meat is overly mild, but not so old that it’s lost its tenderness.
This week, we ordered older birds so we could make a Piedmontese braise of them in the traditional manner for Thursday night’s special dinner with Produttori del Barbaresco winemaker Aldo Vacca. The more mature birds have a deeper flavor that comes through in braising. When we receive younger pigeons, we hang them dry for a few days so the skin is crisped when we grill or slow-roast them and accompany them with the sort of good things you might see with duck — such as bitter greens and creamy white beans, as above.
Paine Farm pigeon will be on our menu this weekend, and it is truly an experience not to be missed.
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