Mushroom Stuffed Quails
Little quails are so delicate and cute, I almost feel guilty eating them. They are however delicious and beautiful to see plated up with roasted vegetables and a nice red glass of red wine. When I want to treat someone to a fun dish I choose quails. Eating quails however is not a dainty affair; you will most likely have to use your hands. Cloth napkins are a must at the table.
Although they are a game bird, they are not as gamy tasting as say squab and have a richer flavor than Cornish game hen and chickens. They are however, small, weighing about 4-5 ounces; you should allow 2 birds per person. Game birds are notoriously lean and you can add strips of bacon or other types of fat to the breast area of the bird to make sure it does not dry out and to give it even more flavor. Be careful not to let the bird overcook or it will be very dry. If you can buy them semi-boneless, which means the breast bones are removed but legs intact. It makes it a lot easier to stuff and eat.
Mushroom Stuffed Quails
4 quails, preferably semi-boneless
½ small onion, finely chopped
2 T. finely chopped celery
2 T. finely chopped carrots
2 large sage leaves, slivered
1 small clove garlic, minced
Warm broth, dry white wine or both
1-2 T. pine nuts or pistachio nuts, ground
4 white mushrooms, diced finely
Salt and pepper
1. In a sauté pan, heat a bit of olive oil and sauté onion, carrots and celery. Cook on low heat until translucent and golden but not too brown, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes more or until the mushrooms have rendered most of their liquid.
3. Add the garlic, sage leaves, nuts, chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste and sauté until fragrant.
4. Deglaze the pan by adding a few spoonfuls of broth or wine and take off the heat.
5. Add enough bread crumbs to the mixture to ensure a moist, not goopy, not too dry, stuffing. Taste for seasonings and adjust. Let the stuffing cool and preheat oven to 375 F.
6. Spoon the stuffing into the quails gently as to not tear them, about 2-3 T. should do. Stuff them so their chests cavities are full and engorged. (You may need to secure the opening in the cavity with a toothpick to prevent the stuffing from falling out or you could cut a tiny slit near the tail/backbone of the quail and insert the drumstick end of the leg into the leg to secure. They end up cross legged and very pretty this way. See photo.)
7. Sauté the birds in oil/butter mixture until well browned. Be careful as you are turning the birds, they have delicate skin that can tear. When the quails are well browned, place them in an oiled roasting pan, breast side up and roast for 10-15 minutes. They should be just cooked with a bit of pink near the bone. Let them rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
The quails are being served with sauteed mushrooms on a bed of mashed potatoes and a mushroom sauce made from the leftover stuffing.
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