There were many new and, er, surprising things about my dinner last night. See, I’ve never cooked a whole turkey, I have no idea how to cut off a chicken’s neck, and my dinners don’t usually involve feathers. Ok, no dinner—in my entire life before last night—has ever involved feathers.
I bought freezer packed quail from the farmer’s market last Saturday, thinking that they would be all prepared—just requiring me to take out of the package and cook. Now, maybe if I were a seasoned cook, I would have been expecting the quail’s neck to be still on; I wouldn’t have gotten squimish about the amount of blood pouring out of the thing, and the feathers that were still sporadically stuck to the quail wouldn’t phase me. But, alas, I am not a seasoned cook, and this thing freaked me out.
I pretended not to care about the little baby bones of this poor animal. I screeched at Jim to look up on the internet what the hell I should do about the neck (nothing but cook it, it turns out), and when he laughed at me for looking faint, I argued that I was fine, I’d cook anything man, heck, I’ll start killin’ my meats if that’ll prove how tough I am. Yeah. Right on. Throughout these stout-hearted declarations, however, I was silently whispering my apologies to the quail.
I’d never have taken myself as someone to get persnickety over cooking an animal, and I did get over my guilt quick enough (puppetering my porcini encrusted quails to do the can-can), but the memory of this dinner will remain as quite an experience. Pulling off the few feathers that adhered to the quail was a brutal reminder of how animal, how alive, my dinner once was. And while I stand by my belief that being a herbiovore and eating meat that is humanely treated and slaughtered is the best diet a person can have, I think it would benefit us all to think a little more about our food and the life it had before entering our bellies. Something like that can really prompt you to opt for cage-free products.
There are so many benefits of eating animals that have been raised cage-free and happy. The animals are usually healthier (animals in close capacity tend to get sicker) and haven’t been stuffed with antibiotics. The meat is more tender, juicier. The flavor is earthier, closer to what real poultry or meat should taste like. Game birds are special treats too, with darker meat than most chickens and a deeper flavor. The only problem with quail though, is its so freakin’ hard to eat! It’s size (tiny) prohibits you from making ripping cuts with a knife lest want shredded quail for dinner. And, being poor and grumpy about it, Jim and I don’t have any high quality knives that could slice the bird up smoothly. The recipe turned out to be delicious, but after all the excitement in cooking the bird, which took me much longer than it would if I hadn’t freaked out, I was too hungry to happily spend my time eating carefully. I ended up taking a few bites and giving the rest to Jim. I’m not sure I’ll make this recipe using quail again, though with chicken thighs, it may become a staple dinner.
Porcini-Crusted Quail and White Mushroom Sauce
This recipe was adapted from Cooking Light, October 07. They used chicken breast halves. If you can’t find, or don’t want, quail, I would suggest substituting boneless chicken thighs.
Oven Temp 425º
- 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
- 4 whole quail
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 2 minced shallots 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 cups sliced wild or cultivated mushrooms (about 1/2 pound)
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Place porcini mushrooms in a spice or coffee grinder; process until finely ground. Spread out onto a baking sheet or plate.
- Sprinkle quail with salt and pepper. Dredge in porcini mixture. Fry quail in skillet with 1 tsp of oil for 2-3 minutes per side, then transfer to an oven-proof dish. Roast quail in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until legs are browned and quail is done.
- Heat remaining 1 tsp oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add 3 cups mushrooms; cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Add broth to pan; simmer until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup (about 5 minutes). Stir in sour cream; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and parsley. Enjoy!