Ladies and Gentlemen, I humbly invite you to indulge in my little menu with the succulent roasted quail mounted on top of sautéed veggies with pronounced Italian taste…
and the aromatic puddle of juices waiting to be picked up with the bite of a savory bread pudding
(my version of holiday stuffing). For the contrast and/or a drop of color (not to mention the amount of fiber and nutriments) I added some steamed Brussels sprouts with orange zest to complete the unbelievable harmony of seasons in this recipe. Can you think of any more elegant setting for a holiday dinner on a budget?
I came up with this combination idea after some hours of mentally deconstructing a holiday bird and the stuffing (while driving long distances or on the bus), in a way you can still have fun with both.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas turkey dinners just like Chevy Chase’s
, or Eddie Murphy’s
characters or any other person who likes to chill out with the family.
This time though I was craving some new age flair for a change. Something that would not require any horse power to manipulate with and would not cork the fridge the day after. Something more visually and socially appealing and much more exciting for the taste buds than a turkey, and… that can actually be made in advance?AH! Hopefully I just got your attention!
This little quirky bird came to my response. I know, I know, it is not much to eat, it’s messy and primal and it is not always working well in recipes. I’ve tried and failed the ones with all kind of sweet marinades over the years (allowing the marinades to destroy the delicate flavor of the bird) and that was the reason I got cold feet about it.
Until I discovered this absolutely amazing and easy Chef Jean Soulard’s
recipe and am now proudly presenting it to you with almost no alterations.
The only thing I added to it was one jalapeno pepper for a bit of a kick.
So, NO, the recipe has nothing to do with my once upon a time travel to Milan where my luggage (
) was lost without a trace. But, YES, it is an Italian inspired dish I found in the French Canadian chef’s book. And the secret of its success is in the sauce…
Quails are available, relatively inexpensive (go to the Chinese supermarket for the best $ deal) and make a stunning addition to the festivities. Why do you think high-end restaurant menus have this bird so often on their holiday menus? It’s easy and fast to cook, it makes a hell of a presentation (because of its small size) and (when cooked properly) it tastes divine. Also, don’t forget that quail has less than 300 calories per bird (yes, you will get much more from just a few bites of pigs in the blanket); it is lower in fat and higher in protein than chicken and is a great source of nutriments and is considered a low-fat energy booster. PS: Game meat is my next table resolution for 2014: to fight hormones, antibiotics, etc., make portions smaller and add some forgotten vigor to the plate.
If you are still not convinced, here is the best thing about the recipe: you can make the dish up to two days ahead! Or, did I already mention that? Keep it in the fridge and then just warm it up in the 400F oven for 10 minutes (buttering and broiling the top if necessary with the tips of the legs covered with aluminum foil not to burn). Sure, if you serve it immediately upon cooking it will give you a tender juicy flesh, which some people are looking for. However, if you put it aside and let the juices ”cure” for 24-48 hours, the meat will be less juicier, but will become smokier and gamier and more acceptable for those, for example, who are not the admirers of the ”rare” condition. And, by the way, no one has to know you did not cook it from skratch 15 minutes ago… Check out the images below (right after cooking and after 36 hours in the fridge) to see the difference.
And so it’s time to dust off our best cutlery and open a bottle of good wine and prepare to celebrate Christmas. Be deliciously Merry and have a Happy Holiday! Cheers!
Wait, what about the dessert? Good question – I saved that for a bang tomorrow! Oops, who am I kidding, it’s Christmas Eve tomorrow and I am not home alone!
Merry Christmas to All of You!
Quail à la Milanese (Cailles mijoutees comme a la Milan)
Yields: 4-8 portions (two birds per person are suggested, but you can easily go with one)
Time: 20 minutes to prepare/20 minutes cooking time
30g (2 tbsp) butter
15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
6 bacon slices, cut in small pieces
2 onions, minced
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in cubes
1 red pepper, seeded and cut in julienne
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced into julienne (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
20 black olives,
30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh basil, chopped
Salt & pepper
In the large Dutch oven or skillet, brown the quails on all sides in the mix of butter and oil for 5 minutes. Salt, pepper and set aside. Keep warm.
In the same skillet, add bacon and onions; sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, peppers, garlic and olives. Mix, place the quails over the vegetables and let simmer for 15 minutes. Five minutes before the end of cooking, add basil. If desired, broil quails for an additional minute for a crunch and/or presentation. Dress the plates and serve the quails on the mountain of sautéed vegetables.
Adapted from: Le Grand Soulard de la Cuisine by Jean Soulard: 1150 recettes classiques au gout du terroir quebecois ©Les Editions La Presse, 2013