We somewhat impulsively picked up several brace of quail at Saturday’s market, and despite Steve’s suggestion that the birds be breaded, then deep-fried in lard (bolstered by his friend Chef Bill, who also recommended biscuits and cream gravy), Michelle decided to go another route.
Searching her cookbooks for something different (and hopefully much less kitchen-messing than a deep-frying session), she decided she wanted to stuff the quail, which would mean the first step was deboning the little birds. She watched Jaques Pépin on YouTube, consulted a few other digital and analog sources, then decided that she had too few quail to risk birds rent asunder by trying to learn how to do it. (We may try the techniques the next time we make stock, which may provide some enlightenment.)
Michelle had come across a recipe for braised quail with figs while consulting our Cook’s Illustrated Complete Book of Poultry. Since the most complicated part of quail prep was binding the legs with twine, and we had some nice plump dried figs about, it seemed like a nice option. The recipe turned out a bit more “fiddly” than Michelle would have liked but we were very pleased with the results. The browned, then braised quail were quite tender, and the fig-sweetened sauce enhanced their delicate flavor. We added more garlic, some shallots and smoked paprika to the original recipe, which made things even better. As did a side of couscous and the sight of non-mutilated quail.
BRAISED QUAIL WITH FIGS
(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Complete Book of Poultry)
- 6-8 whole quail
- Salt and pepper
- 3 TB olive oil
- 4 TB butter
- 6-8 large Turkish dried figs
- 1 shallot, sliced thin
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1 c. dry white wine
- 1 c. chicken or other broth
- 1/4 c. sherry vinegar
- 1-1/2 TB sugar
- 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 TB chopped fresh parsley
Using kitchen twine, tie the legs of each quail together. Season birds generously with salt and pepper and bring to room temperature.
Put whole figs in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water. Let stand for about 10 minutes. Drain and dry with paper towels. Cut off any tough stems or bottoms. Cut figs into quarters and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet large enough to hold all the quail tightly. Add shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to caramelize. Add figs and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Then add wine, stock, vinegar, sugar and smoked paprika. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat. Boil for approximately 7 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter together in a large skillet. Fry the quail over high heat until browned on all sides. This will take about 5 or 6 minutes.
Transfer the browned birds to the pan containing the sauce. Bring to a simmer. Cover. Cook quail until done, about 7 minutes more.
Add chopped parsley and remaining tablespoon of butter to the sauce. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.
Serve quail with couscous with sauce spooned over.