Quail with Pruneaux d’Agen, Sage and Olives

Quail

We love our quails! They have a delicate taste, but they also allow you to add strong flavours like sage, bay leaf or black olives. We prefer small and tasty black olives (in oil) for instance Taggia olives from Italy. Prune-wise Pruneaux d’Agen are ideal, but in general the prune should be moist, sweet and full of flavours.

Wine Pairing

A medium bodied red wine, not too complex, will work very well; for instance a Shiraz. We enjoyed our quail with a glass of Puech d’Hortes from La Colombette made from syrah and grenache grapes. The wine should balance with the sweetness (sage, Pruneaux d’Agen), the nutty character of the pancetta and the bitterness of the olives and the sage.

What You Need

  • 2 Quails
  • 50 grams of Pancetta
  • Sage (fresh, 6 leaves or so)
  • 6 Pruneaux d’Agen
  • 10 or more Black Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

What You Do

Make sure the quail is sufficiently fat, not damaged and not frozen. Clean the inside of the quails with kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. We prefer it if the head is still attached to the body. This allows you to use the skin of the neck, after having removed the head and the spine. Cut 4 prunes, the pancetta, the sage and the olives in smaller bits and mix together. Now stuff the quail with the mixture and finish with a prune. Use kitchen string to close the quail. Pre-heat your oven to 220° Celsius or 430°  Fahrenheit. Put the quails in a skillet with olive oil. Put some butter on top of the quail. Make sure the breast is downward facing. This way the fat will go towards the breast, making sure these are nice and moist. Put in upper half of oven. After 10 minutes turn the quails and label fat over the breast. After another 10 minutes your quails should be ready and golden. This of course depends on your oven. You may want to give the quails a few extra minutes. Remove from the oven, cover the quails with aluminium foil and let them rest for 10 minutes. Remove the kitchen string before serving.

 

Lamb Shank with Rosemary

When In Paris…

A few years ago when attending a business lunch in Paris (the things we have to endure in life…) we were overwhelmed by the menu. We quickly decided to go for Lamb and told the waiter in our very best French we would like to taste Souris d’Agneau au Vin Rouge et aux Herbes, although not exactly knowing what a Souris might be. So during that lunch we discovered the joys of Lamb Shank.
Most recipes recommend preparing lamb shank in a hot oven (200 °C or so) but that’s actually not the best way to do it. Too hot, too fast, too dry.

Lamb shank has a generous amount of fat which makes it ideal for slow cooking. Our preferred option is to use a pressure cooker. Within 45 minutes the lamb shanks will be perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

Wine Pairing

We would suggest drinking a glass of Bordeaux with the lamb shank. The Bordeaux is in general a classic blend with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The wine should be well structured with lots of fruit. It should support the sweetness of the dish (carrots, lamb, leek). Soft tannins, a smooth texture and sufficient length. We very much enjoyed a glass of Chateau Beaulieu (2012) with our lamb.
Remember to use the same wine for cooking the lamb!

What You Need

  • 2 Lamb Shanks (with fat, please!)
  • 2 Shallots
  • Carrot
  • Leek
  • Celeriac
  • 2 Garlic Gloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni, for instance:

    • Bay Leaf
    • Parsley
    • Thyme
    • lots of Rosemary (and 2 extra sprigs)
  • Red Wine
  • Water
  • Black Pepper
  • Brussels Sprouts or Carrots

What You Do

Start by colouring the lamb shanks in olive oil. Transfer to a plate and then gently fry the shopped shallot, the leek, the carrot, the celeriac and the garlic. When ready add the red wine and some water, depending on your taste. Add the generous bouquet garni with extra rosemary and some cooked garlic. Transfer the lamb shanks back to the pan and close the pressure cooker. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of the shanks. Transfer the shanks to a warm plate, pass the cooking juice through a sieve (discarding the vegetables), check the sauce, reduce if necessary,  and serve the shanks with a classic branch of rosemary, Brussels sprouts and some bread.
If you want to emphasize the natural sweetness of the dish, then serve with glazed carrots.

 

Chicken with Tarragon, Leek and Nero d’Avola

Some combinations are made in heaven. Chicken and Tarragon is such a combination: it simply works brilliantly. Tarragon is a very powerful, aromatic herb, full of flavors such as anise and licorice. It’s the key ingredient of the sauce Béarnaise and it is of course wonderful when combined with vinegar and mustard. For kitchen purposes you need to buy French tarragon. The other well-known variety is called Russian tarragon. It’s a nice plant for your garden or balcony, with flowers and lots of leaves, but the taste is very bland, so not one to use in the kitchen.

We use butter to carry the taste of the tarragon to the chicken and to the sauce. It’s the principle behind enfleurage and maceration in the perfume making industry: fat is used to absorb the fragrance. So yes, you need an excellent chicken with lots of fat under the skin.

This recipe works with a whole chicken, with breasts and legs, provided they come with a skin. The crux of this recipe is to create a layer of tarragon butter between the meat and the skin, allowing for a crispy skin in combination with rich, flavored meat. You can stuff the chicken in the morning or the day before. Ideal when you’re having guests!

The sauce is very rich, so instead of using flour or cream, we create an emulsified sauce by blendering the mixture. The result is a velvety, filming sauce.

We enjoyed our chicken with a glass of Inycon Nero d’Avola. The wine is elegant, fruity, not too full bodied and it has soft tannins and a gentle acidity. You will also taste licorice, which is a nice reflection of the tarragon and the Pastis. The balance of the acidity of the wine and the filming structure of the sauce is essential to the dish.

Here is what you need

  • 2 Chicken Legs
  • 8 Sprigs of Tarragon
  • 20 + 10 grams of Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Pastis
  • Chicken Stock
  • Optional: Leek, olive oil and water

Strip the tarragon leaves from the stem and chop. Let’s say you need one or two sprigs of tarragon per chicken leg. Use a fork to make the tarragon butter. Use your fingers to create space (a pocket) between the skin and the meat. Start for instance in the middle of the leg (outside) or at the rear of the whole chicken. Be careful not to open the edges, otherwise the tarragon butter can’t do its work. Put some of the butter between the skin and the meat and use your fingers to create a thin layer by pressing the butter to the sides. Coat the bottom of a shallow baking pan with olive oil.
Transfer the chicken legs to the pan. Add some additional butter to the pan (not on top of the chicken). Also add the sprigs you haven’t used. Put the pan in an oven of 200˚ Celsius or 390˚ Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken legs and two sprigs of tarragon to a plate and keep them warm in the oven (just switch it of and keep the door open). Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and Pastis. Deglazing simply means that you add a liquid and then by stirring the mixture you capture the residue in the pan. As if you are cleaning the pan. Blender the mixture and poor through a sieve into a small saucepan. You now have a homogenous, emulsified sauce. Warm the sauce and stir occasionally for five minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce, the fried sprigs of tarragon and the briefly cooked leek.

(P.S. Clean the leek, making sure you have removed the sand and dirt. Slice thinly and cook with some olive oil and a drop or two of water. Five minutes maximum should do the trick.)

Duck Breast with a Green Pepper Corn Sauce

Ignore The Obvious

Duck is often combined with a sweet ingredient. Think fruit (orange, clementine, apple and even peach), with honey, Port Wine or Marsala. All these combinations make sense because the idea is to relate to the taste of the duck. In this case we ignore the obvious and combine it with a green pepper corn sauce. The thyme is the bridge between the duck and the sauce. The garlic brings a touch of sweetness to the sauce. The combination works beautifully!
Green pepper corn is available dried and in brine. We prefer the brine version because it integrates better with the other ingredients of the sauce. The dried corns work well after leaving them in a nice vinegar for 24 – 48 hours.

Wine Pairing

A simple Bordeaux wine will work very well. But Syrah, with its hint of spiciness, will be the perfect wine with this dish. If available go for an Australian Syrah because of the full-bodied character.

What You Need

  • 2 small Breasts of Duck or 1 large one
  • Thyme
  • Chicken stock
  • Garlic
  • Single or Double Cream
  • Green Pepper Corn in Brine (slightly crunched)
  • Mustard

What You Do

Check the breast of duck for remainders of feathers. Remove the vein on the meat side of the breast (and the odd membrane you don’t like). Cut the skin (not the meat!) in a crosshatch pattern, let’s say 1-2 centimeter apart. Doing this helps the fat render and it will give a crispy result. Put thyme in the pattern. Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold.
Fry the duck in a hot, non-sticky skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side. Reduce the heat after a few minutes. You don’t need oil or butter, the duck fat will do the trick. Now fry for 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminum foil is such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover meat.
Remove most of the fat from the pan, but not all. Add chicken stock, garlic and thyme. Stir and add the crunched green pepper. We like their taste so we tend to add quite a few. Now start building the sauce by adding juices from the duck. Maybe you want to add a bit of mustard. This will not only add complexity to the sauce, it will also make it thicker. Add the cream but please remember that cream needs a few minutes to integrate in the sauce. If you add cream last-minute, you will, indeed, taste cream.
After 10 – 15 minutes it’s time to carve the duck. Make sure to add all the juices to the sauce. Cut the duck in slices (we like fairly big slices, you may prefer thinner ones) and place these on top of the sauce when serving.
If you have a bit of extra time, pass the sauce through a sieve, removing the thyme and other bits, before adding the green pepper.

Guineafowl with Morels and Gnocchi

Guineafowl

Preparing guineafowl can be a bit of a challenge. Easily overcooked and easily prepared the wrong way. Given its size you could think it should be prepared like chicken but that’s not the case. Compare chicken with guineafowl and notice the difference: the meat of a guineafowl has much more structure, it’s fatter and firmer.
Cooking quineafowl requires some liquid (oil, butter, wine, stock) but not too much. Cooked like coq au vin it’s a disaster. Spit-roasted guineafowl? Not a good idea.

In The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook (written by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers) you will find a great recipe of guineafowl with grappa, junipers, white wine and pancetta. The combination of grappa and junipers is amazing and the idea to have these two support the guinea fowl is simply stunning. The combination emphasises the wild and nutty taste of the guinegowl. Buy the book and start cooking!

Dried mushrooms: expensive and actually not very tasty. Not even close to the real thing. With the exception of dried morels: these are as tasty as fresh ones.
Also important: unlike most mushrooms, morels are to be found (and bought) in Spring. So the best season to cook this dish is in Spring, but given dried morels are equally tasty, it doesn’t really matter.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our guineafowl with a glass of Bergerac, La Vaure, 2015. This is a full-bodied wine with a hint of oak, red fruits and great flavours overall. Made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A mature Bergerac with a lasting taste.

What You Need

  • 2 legs of Guineafowl
  • 10 gram of dried Morels
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Chicken Stock
  • Mustard
  • Cream
  • Black Pepper
  • Gnocchi

What You Do

Pre-heat the oven to 180 ˚Celsius. Add the two legs of guinea fowl to a shallow dish with butter and olive oil. Cook for 10 minutes. In the mean time add the morels to hot water. Soak for 15 minutes. Turn the legs upside down after 10 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes. Turn them a second time, skin up. Add the morels to the dish, leaving the skin free. In parallel start preparing the sauce using chicken stock and some morel-water, but not too much. Taste the water before adding. The legs should be ready after 30 minutes. Add the cooking juices to the sauce, grill the legs quickly if the skin is not yet nicely coloured and keep the morels warm. Add mustard and pepper to the sauce, stir well, add some cream and allow to heat through and through for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and if necessary add more mustard or morel-water.
Serve with gnocchi.