A Whale of a Quail!
Long thought to be a luscious item reserved for hunting households and gourmet menus, STUFFED QUAIL WITH ORANGE SAUCE has been missing from many tables over the years. In many regions of Italy, where they hunt for sport and sustenance, quail has been part of the menu along with other game birds – partridge, pheasant etc. Until more recently, in the US, it was unavailable in markets. However, during the 80’s farms developed to provide these game birds to the average household. It began with special orders, and now quail is available frozen, in many local markets. These birds have actually been of high quality and are clean and ready to prepare.
Many are unfamiliar with these tiny birds. They are very tiny and can be eaten easily by just picking them up in your fingers. If not overcooked, they are juicy and tasty. You can stuff them as you see here or simply roast or broil them. They are often served with some sort of fruit – or fruit sauce as shown. It is a perfect choice for cooking with dried fruits. Italians often enjoy serving their quail over polenta.
I enjoyed quail and other game birds during my growing up years with my family. My father, Attilio, was a passionate hunter, and hunted many types of game birds as the seasons dictated. He brought them all home to be eaten by the family. The birds were immediately plucked and cleaned in our kitchen and then sometimes frozen for later use. We loved the quail, in particular, because of their size. These little birds were tender and actually fun to eat. You could eat more than one for a meal or just one for a first course or starter.
My father was a great cook as well as a hunter and really knew how to prepare these birds. He always used bacon to wrap them, as fat is missing from these wild ones. The bacon kept them moist while offering great flavor. Most often, he stuffed the quail using sausage and onion and worked fruit into them somehow – either in the stuffing or the sauce or both. The resulting meal was one we relished and remember to this day how wonderful they were. He was always proud of them! Here he is preparing one of his famous quail recipes.
You can prepare most of the recipe a day ahead following the instructions. This makes the recipe so easy. Then stuff and cook the quail on the day you serve. The Orange Sauce is beautiful, with just a little sweetness and a slight hint of piquant. You can also use the sauce on Cornish Game Hens or even chicken. Plan for one quail per person as an appetizer or as a first course. Plan on two per person for dinner – but one per person will do if it follows a hefty first course. Buon appetito!
Makes: 4 Quail
Prep: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook: about 40 minutes for roasting
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 lb. Mild Italian Sausage – out of the casings
1/2 Onion – chopped
1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped
1/2 C. Chopped Roasted Chestnuts (these can be purchased now roasted and packaged)
1 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese grated
1/2 C. Fresh Breadcrumbs
(1/2 C. Currants – optional)
1 Large egg
On medium high – cook sausage, onion, and sage in the olive oil until sausage is browned and onion is tender – About 8 minutes. Break up the sausage with a fork as you cook.
Remove from hear and add the chestnuts, grated cheese, chestnuts, and breadcrumbs – mix together. (Add currants if using)
Add egg and mix.
You can make the stuffing a day ahead. If you do, you should not add the egg until just before you stuff your quail on the day you serve.
Orange Sauce Ingredients
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Onion – chopped
1 cinnamon Stick
1/2 C. Cognac
2 Tbsp. Honey
1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
1 Cup Orange Juice
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1 Sprig Fresh Tarragon
1 Bay Leaf
2 Cups Chicken Broth
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 Can (11 oz.) Mandarin Orang slices drained.
Orange Sauce Instructions
You can make this a day ahead.
Cook the onion and cinnamon stick in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.
Then add the cognac – stirring and continuing to cook another minute.
Add the honey, vinegar, orange juice, zest, red pepper flakes, tarragon, Bay Leaf and broth. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Cook for 20-30 minutes at a strong simmer. It will cook down some and thicken slightly. Remember – this is a sauce and not gravy. You can add a little water if it has cooked down too much.
Remove from heat and add the butter and stir in.
Pour all into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
Add the orange slices and serve or refrigerate until the next day.
This is not a thick gravy. It should be a smooth velvety sauce.
Plan to drizzle a little sauce over each stuffed quail before you roast them. Reserve the remaining sauce for serving.
The Quail Ingredients
4 Quail if using as a first course, appetizer, or if your quail follows a heavier first course. Plan on 8 (2 per person if not serving a first course) You can find them frozen at most markets.
4 slices Bacon
The Quail Instructions
Pat the quail dry.
Cut them up the center of the back and open them up. This is where the stuffing will go. This is easy as they are so small and delicate. Any pair of kitchen scissors should work.
Stuff the inside and secure with two or three toothpicks.
Turn them over, breast side up, secured side down, and place them on your pan. Repeat this process with each quail.
Drizzle a spoonful of orange sauce over each quail.
Cut your bacon slices in half and fold two halves over the breast of each quail.
Take a small bit of string and tie the legs together as you see in the photo.
Roast the birds in a 425 degree preheated oven. for about 10 minutes. Then reduce the oven temp to 325 and continue to roast for another 30 minutes.
If there is left over stuffing just bake it at 325 degrees a few minutes and serve a little with each bird.
I like to nest the birds in a small pool of the sauce with oranges. Bellissima!
***Another preparation which I credit to my father was to roast the birds, breast side down, wide open without securing them at all. He simply piled the stuffing on the the open birds and topped them off with a slice of bacon. This is the way he prepared them for the photo above. For these, you would simple roast them at 350 for 30-40 minutes! This is not as “cute” – but less labor intensive – and just as delicious!
With the lovely STUFFED QUAIL WITH ORANGE SAUCE, plan to serve a worthy wine of your choice. I like a lighter red wine with game birds. A beautiful Toscana or Barbera d’Asti would be just right!
PARLA COME MANGI!
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