|From 2010-05-08 – 2010-05-12|
My Aunt in South Georgia sent me a cooler full of quail, what a delight! I don’t know that I’ve ever had it available other than from plantation hunters, but I could be wrong. I still have a long ways to go to perfect it, but the first shot out of the barrel was a pan-roasted quail with pan sauce and glazed carrots. Nothing earth-shattering but a quick way to utilize a couple of techniques.
The why and how
Quail is a lean meat about 4-6 ounces per breast. They way mine were cleaned was by separating the drumettes from the bone-in breasts. I figured on 2 birds per person which turned out to be plenty. Because it’s so lean, it needs fat for basting or it dries out super quick. I’ve had it grilled wrapped with bacon, which was great as well.
Thumbing through the Flavor Bible, there are some key ingredients that pair with quail: bacon/pancetta, sage, thyme, balsamic vinegar, honey, acid like citrus and vinegar. If you don’t have this book and you need a kickstart to help you combine flavors with whatever ingredients you have, look no farther. Pick some ingredients, apply some technique, there you go. The end of recipes. I settled on garlic, onion, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper, with butter for basting. I also decided on carrots since I think the root veggies go well with poultry.
Pan roast on high heat was going to be the way to go. Consider how you would roast a chicken, around 375-400 if you have a big bird(4 pound broiler), 425-450 with small ones(2.5-3 pound fryer). With something much smaller, you can really give it the heat. Of course, if you going to pan roast, might as well use a sticky pan and scrape the bottom up to make a pan sauce while your meat is resting. I probably should have par boiled the carrots and included them with the pan sauce, alas I didn’t so I prepared them separately as a sautee/glaze.
Season the quail with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, letting them come close to room temperature.
Dice an an onion and 3 cloves of garlic and set aside.
Find a pan that is going to fit the birds without crowding, preferably clad stainless or cast iron. Bring to medium high heat to the smoke point of your fat. I used a mixture of butter and oil, enough to just fill the bottom of the pan to make sure that the meat was going to be in contact with the fat to brown more evenly. You could call this almost pan frying, but the oil wasn’t really that deep. I basted the birds while they were browning by spooning up the oil and butter and pouring it over them. Once they were just browned on one side, I put the pan and birds in the oven at 450, adding the drumettes at this point and let them go until the sponginess was out of the breast meat. No thermometers here, although, in retrospect I probably overcooked them just a bit.
While this was going on, I took 2 carrots and cut them into small roughly equal bite size pieces. Using a non-stick pan, sauteed them until fragrant and then added about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water, salt, pinch of cayenne pepper, and covered them to give them a steam bath. While they were still firm, I added about 1/2 cup of orange juice and a couple of tablespoons of butter, took the lid off, and tossed it all together in the pan, letting it reduce to a sticky syrup that covered and “glazed” the carrots. Not too difficult.
Back to the birds. Out of the oven, I pulled the breasts out of the pan, and browned the drumettes over high heat, setting them all aside. Added the onions and garlic and sauteed over high heat and enough fat to flip them in the pan. Once they were starting to brown, I added about 1/2 cup of white wine, let it reduce a bit, and then 2 tablespoons of butter to thicken it up a little bit. Make sure that your scraping up the stuff that stuck in your pan, I like to use a flat wooden spoon for this. This way, you’re cleaning your pan and adding flavor to your food. What a concept. Sauce is done when it coats the back of the spoon. Taste to adjust seasoning (I think I added a little salt and lemon juice to brighten).
- To do it over, I bet I don’t have to put the birds in the oven for as long as I did or at all. One thing I learned from watching Pepin cook is that he is really expert at knowing when to put a lid on it. With his words, yes, but also when he’s cooking in a pan. The moist heat acts like a mini braise providing some steam heat. That probably would have been all I needed to do for the quail.
- This is a really simple pan sauce that goes great with chicken, steak or veggies.
- This is the first of what I hope is several quail dishes, experimenting with various techniques to see how they turn out. Grilling is definitely on the list.