Grilled Marinated Quail with Chestnuts and Cranberries
Okay, so, the reason I've been delaying this post is because the pictures are really pretty bad. Bad enough that normally I'd consider just not using the post at all, except this was the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving for two. So I'm going to give you mostly pictures from around New York that are completely unrelated, and then wham! Ugly food pics right at the end. Brace yourself.
Another reason I don't feel too guilty delaying this post is that, even though it was our T-gives dinner, it's not turkey. So if you're all turkey'd out, and maybe still have occasion to cook something a little special, you might consider this. Which is quail. Which, it turns out, is really frickin' easy, and takes all of about 6 minutes to actually cook.
But I'll back up for a second. We had Thanksgiving for two this year, as you've no doubt gathered. But I'm married to a Norwegian, and there are traditional American things he just doesn't like. Pumpkin pie is one of them (so I replaced that with this). Cranberry sauce it another, even though I think it shares a basic affinity with Norwegian specialties like lingonberry jam. But you know what they say about the possibility of accounting for taste. So I wanted to use most of the traditional ingredients, but in slightly non-traditional ways, and with only enough food for two.
I still wanted a kind of centerpiece bird, but was not about to roast an entire turkey for two people. I was also not particularly interested in a mere turkey or chicken breast, not for a feast. So I went for a completely different bird, a game bird not nearly as well known as turkey, it seems, but about 1/100th of the size. In fact, those silly little quails are positively tiny, and if you've had your butcher butterfly them, they look like little headless people flattened onto wax paper.
The recipes comes originally from Larry Forgione's An American Place, which is an appropriate source, since Forgione's mission in life seems to be elevating a unique American cooking with use of kind of fresh and farmers' market ingredients increasingly available in the US. He originally calls for wild huckleberries, which, although native to the US, are pretty much impossible to find in East Harlem on a whim. He suggests replacing them with dried wild blueberries, but since we were talking Thanksgiving, I decided to incorporate the cranberries right into the sauce. It made the original process a bit different, but the sauce was gooood.
So, let's talk about chestnuts quickly, since you'll be using the in this recipe. The easiest way to peel them is to cut an X on the flat side with a sharp knife. Put them into a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, and boil the nuts for about 4 minutes. Drain and cool the nuts, then peel the shells off.
Now, the other thing impossible to find in November in East Harlem is a grill. If you have the same problem, you can simply use a grill pan, or throw them under the broiler. They're so teensy, tiny (allow at least two per person assuming there are side dishes coming along) that they take only a few minutes per side. And now, for a look at these ugly, but delicious, little birds. The following recipe as been reduced to feed two.
Grilled Marinated Quail with Chestnuts and Cranberries
Adopted from Larry Forgione's An American Place
For the marinade:
1/2 cup (real please!) maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon (or thyme if that's what you have or like)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 boneless quail (just ask your butcher to bone them for you)
For the sauce:
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
3/4 tablespoon ground black pepper
1/3 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup stock or broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 tablespoon corn starch
About 8 chestnuts, peeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, maybe a bit more if you need it
Olive oil to brush over the birds
Salt and pepper to season
For the marinade, combine the ingredients in a large ziplock bag and shake it around. Put the quail in and then put the bag in the refrigerator. Marinate the birds for 1 hour.
For the sauce: combine the cranberries, pepper, and sugar in a saucepan. Cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, and don't let the mixture burn. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar (which just means put the vinegar in the pot and use it to break up any bits stuck to the bottom). Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then add the stock. Bring the mixture to simmer and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes.
In separate bowl, mix the softened butter together with the cornstarch to form a paste. Stir it into the sauce to thicken. The liquid should stay at a simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
This would be a good time to preheat your grill pan or broiler (or grill I guess, but since I've never had one I have no idea how long that takes). But bring whatever you're using to medium-hot.
For the chestnuts, combine the nuts, the butter and 2 tablespoons water in a skillet and bring the melted butter to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is evaporated and the chestnuts are coated with butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the quail, remove the birds from the marinade and pat dry. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill or broil for 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through. Arrange two quail per person with chestnuts sprinkled around, and topped with the cranberry sauce.