Quail à la Roden

A few excellent ingredients is sometimes all you need to cook a wonderful dish. In this case you need quail, shallot, olive oil, butter, sage and Marsala.
We love the delicate, pleasantly intense flavour of quails. They are great to combine with strong flavours like bay leaf, pancetta and prunes but in this case, we follow a recipe by Claudia Roden, as published in her excellent book The Food of Italy. We tweaked it a bit, so please buy Claudia Roden’s book when you want to make the original.
Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily. Perhaps you know it as something sold in small bottles, especially for cooking purposes. Never buy this nasty product because it can’t be compared to real Marsala. Same story for the small ‘Madeira’ bottles.
Quails must be sufficiently fat and undamaged. We prefer the French label rouge quails. Not cheap, but a wealth of flavours. 

Wine Pairing

The dish comes with a gentle, intense and slightly sweet taste thanks to the sage, the marsala and the quail. You could go for a medium bodied red wine. We enjoyed a glass of Domaine Vico Corse Le Bois du Cerf Rosé 2021 with our quail. This is an exceptional rosé from Corsica. It is made from grenache and sciacarello grapes. It is medium bodied and fresh with aromas of red fruit. Its taste is complex, long and fruity.

What You Need

  • 2 Quails
  • 1 Shallot
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • 4 Leaves of Sage
  • Dry or Medium Dry Marsala
  • Chicken Stock
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Clean the inside of the quail with a bit of kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. Check for remaining feathers and shafts. Gently fry the chopped shallot in butter and olive oil until soft. Remove the shallot from the pan, increase the temperature and fry the quails until golden-brown. Reduce the heat, add shallot and sage. Pour in marsala and stock. Cook the quails for 20 minutes until done, turning them over regularly. Transfer the quails to a warm oven (60˚ C or 140˚ F). Reduce the sauce, taste, add black pepper, perhaps some freshly chopped sage and diced cold butter to thicken the sauce. Serve the quail on top of the sauce.
Claudia Roden serves the quails with risotto. 

The Food of Italy

In 1990 Claudia Roden published The Food of Italy, a book based on her articles in the Sunday Times. She researched Italian cuisine for over a year, traveling throughout the country, visiting cities and villages, talking to people and enjoying their way of preparing food. 

If you open The Food of Italy, you will notice that the table of contents is very much a list of regions. Every chapter begins with an introduction that helps you understand the region. For instance, when she writes about Lombardy, she writes about themes like economy, the countryside (Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como), the cuisine, the renaissance, its main products (rice), meat (Lombardy is known for its pigs), cities (Milan being its main city) and of course its wine (sparkling wine from Franciacorta). After having read the introduction, you will have a much better understanding of the dishes from that region.

Traditional and Local

The book is about traditional local food. When she was once asked why she would write such a book when all the world is changing and cooking is becoming more global and becoming the same all over the world, she answered “What appeals and fascinates and touches the heart is that what distinguishes Italy, which recalls her past and is part of the prestigious heritage and traditions.” We couldn’t agree more!

We prepared a dish from Lombardy, a simple and very tasty combination of Quail, Shallot, Sage, Butter, Oil and (dry) Marsala. It is served with Risotto. In one of our next posts we will describe the dish in more detail.

The Food of Italy is available via your local bookshop or the usual channels for something like 20 euro or US dollar (paperback). A beautifully illustrated hardcover is also available. Other publications by Claudia Roden include books on Mediterranean Food (thus paving the way for chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi), on the joy of Outdoor Eating, on Picnics, Coffee and Spanish Food. 

PS

Marsala is a fortified wine from Sicily. Perhaps you know it as something sold in small bottles, especially for cooking purposes. Never buy this nasty product. It has nothing to do with Marsala. Same story for the small ‘Madeira’ bottles. It’s a bit of a challenge but try to buy dry Marsala for this dish and next time you’re making Tiramisu, use sweet Marsala.

Quails and Snails in a Green Sauce

Many years ago we were looking for a place to eat in Fréjus. It was our last evening in France before returning home and obviously we were looking for something special, something typical Provençal. The area of our hotel wasn’t very promising, so we were ready to settle for pizza until we saw a small restaurant with a very interesting menu. It offered Tisane de RomarinCailles et Escargots and many other exciting dishes we unfortunately can’t remember. We entered the restaurant and had a perfect evening.

Combining quails and snails isn’t the most obvious idea, but rest assured, it works beautifully, also thanks to the very intriguing green sauce. It took us some time to make the sauce as it should be, but after a few attempts we think this is the right bridge between the quails and the snails.

Of course, we made a note of the name of the restaurant and of course, we lost it. A pity, although preparing this dish brings us back to a lovely evening in Fréjus.

Wine Pairing

Enjoy your Quails and Snails with a glass of Bourgogne: a chardonnay with a touch of oak. The wine must be dry, mineral and medium bodied. We enjoyed a glass of Bourgogne as produced by Louis Jadot. The wine partly matured in stainless steel tanks and partly in oak barrels. The result is a wine that has citrus and apple aromas in combination with oak and vanilla. Great with the freshness of the herbs and the richness of the sauce. It balances very well with both the quails and the snails. Two sides to everything in this dish!

What You Need

  • 2 Quails 
  • 6 Snails (click here when you want to know which snail to buy)
  • For the Sauce
    • 1 Bunch of Parsley
    • ½ Bunch of Tarragon
    • A few Leaves of Young Spinach
    • Cream
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Olive Oil
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Wash the snails with plenty of water. Set aside. Clean the quails. Best is to use the breasts only. (You could also serve the legs, provided you remove the main bone. It’s a bit of extra work, also for your guests.) Make sure you have a warm heavy iron skillet ready and a small pan with warm vegetable stock. Set your oven to 60 °C or 140 °F.

Blanch parsley, tarragon and spinach in boiling water and cool immediately in ice water. Blender parsley, tarragon and spinach with some ice water until you have a very smooth green liquid. Set your blender to turbo! Press using a sieve and store the green liquid. It will remain stable for at least an hour.

Fry the breasts quickly in olive oil. Warm the snails in the vegetable stock. Transfer the breasts to the warm oven. Clean the pan with kitchen paper, add cream and chicken stock. Let reduce for 5-10 minutes or until you’re happy with the consistency. Add liquid from the quails. Stir and taste. Perhaps some white pepper? Add green liquid until you have the right colour and taste. Be very careful, if you overheat the sauce it will lose its vibrant green colour. Serve the breasts and the snails in the sauce.

Quails and Snails in a Green Sauce ©cadwu
Quails and Snails in a Green Sauce ©cadwu

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.

 

Quail with Pruneaux d’Agen and Bay Leaf

Fond Memories

Many years ago we enjoyed dinner at a restaurant called Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence, France. The menu included classic dishes such as blue trout, chicken, tian and tender lamb cooked on a spit before an open fire. Ah, Madame Rodi, we fondly remember those evenings, Monsieur Tim and your infinite hospitality.
One of the items on the menu was quail with prunes and bay leaf. Since that day we love our quails! They have a delicate taste, with a nice touch of fattiness. For some reason the meat goes very well with strong flavours like bay leaf, black olives, sage et cetera.
Make sure the quail is sufficiently fat and not frozen. We prefer it if the head is still attached because it allows you to use the skin of the neck, after having removed the head and the spine.
Buying Pruneaux d’Agen could be a challenge, but other prunes will be fine too, provided they are moist and tasty.

Wine Pairing

At the Auberge we enjoyed the red Rimauresq Classique, A.O.P. Côtes de Provence – Cru classé. In general a red wine will go very well with the quails, provided it comes with a bit of fruit and it is not too complex. It should balance with the sweetness and nuttiness (prunes, pancetta) of the dish and the beautiful smell of bay leaf.

What You Need

  • 2 Quails
  • 50 grams of Pancetta
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 6 Pruneaux d’Agen
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

What You Do

Clean the inside of the quails with kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. Check the skin for feathers and hollow shafts. Cut 4 pruneaux and the pancetta in smaller bits and mix together. Now stuff the quail with a bay leaf, then the mixture and finish with a pruneaux. Use kitchen string to close the quail. Pre-heat your oven to 220° Celsius (430° Fahrenheit). Put the quails in a skillet with olive oil. 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, label fat over the breast and after another 10 minutes your quails should be ready and golden. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil and let the quails rest for 10 minutes.
Remove the kitchen string and serve with seasonal vegetables from the oven.

Salad of Oyster Mushrooms and Smoked Breast of Duck

The Loire

One of France’s most beautiful and interesting rivers. It flows from the Massif Central to the Atlantic Ocean and its valley is linked to towns like Nantes, Blois, Tours and Saumur and castles like Chambors and d’Azay-le-Rideau. Its banks are rich, just think of the many vineyards, farms and orchards. So much history, so much gastronomy. The river inspired many, including Hilaire Walden who wrote Loire Gastronomique in 1993. She followed the river and describes its gastronomy in this travelogue. The book features the typical food of the region and the recipes are authentic, easy to follow and delicious. Highly recommended!

Saumur is also a wine region and well-known for its sparkling wine. Another wine made in the region is Saumur Champigny, made from Cabernet Franc. Smell your Saumur Champigny and think of sharpening a pencil. Graphite, cedar wood. Exactly. That’s the specific aroma of Cabernet Franc. The Saumur Champigny wines are typically light or medium-bodied, have a crisp acidity, are easy to drink and they come with flavours and aromas of berries.

Food pairing

Saumur Champigny Les Hauts Buis, 2017, has a red colour with a touch of violet. Soft aromas that made us think of raspberries and cherries. Easy to drink, fresh acidity and soft tannins. Earthiness, lots of red fruit and cherries; with a nice finale with more red fruit. This is a well-balanced wine. Ideal to combine with charcuterie as apéro, a salad and perhaps with couscous. We decided to combine the wine with a salad. A salad that would bring juiciness, nuttiness and sweetness. Gently fried Oyster Mushrooms, smoked Breast of Duck and perhaps Quail Eggs. A few days later we combined the wine with roasted chicken. Again, very nice, light and inspiring.

What You Need

  • Oyster Mushrooms
  • Mesclun
  • Shallot
  • Smoked Breast of Duck
  • (Optional) Quail Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Tear the oyster mushrooms into smaller bits, following the lamellae. Don’t use a knife to do so. Make sure the mesclun is ready to be eaten. Slice the breast of duck into smaller bits if so required. Gently fry the oyster mushrooms in olive oil, just to give them warmth and colour. Cook the quail eggs until just set. Make the vinaigrette with olive oil, white wine (or cider) vinegar, black pepper and the thinly chopped shallot.
Create the salad by tossing the mesclun and the vinaigrette. Serve with the mushrooms and the breast of duck on top of the salad. Serve with crusted bread and of course a generous glass of Saumur Champigny.