5.02.2015

Game Night

As regular readers, you know that I enjoy making traditional dishes, whether they be Italian, French, Indian, Moroccan, or - honestly - from anywhere. I thrive on the diversity of our planets cultures, and how food plays a part in our lives.

When looking at a dish like today's, one might think it is a toney dish. Fancy. Elite. Heck, it calls for quail. They're special, right? Their wild game!

But, the fact is, it is rustic food. Country food. The cuisine of the poor. The quail probably resided in their back woods. They were most likely free for the effort of hunting (and full of birdshot).

Isn't it funny how something that was considered peasant food has become gourmet and upper end?

Did you know that lobster was similarly low-end? Not anymore, my friends. It's the same with quail. These little things, now farm-raised and not-so-wild, are pricey - especially for the amount of meat you get or rather don't get.

I made the recipe using old traditional ingredients and methods and, yes, I made it with quail. It is based on a recipe on Provence, The Beautiful Cookbook.

Would I make it again? Sure, but for cost (and taste, to be frank), I would probably use chicken thighs.

Overall, this dish is similar to a paella: a rice dish with bits of meat and vegetables added to give flavor, texture, as visual interest. The little bit is sauce on top could be increased but it seemed just right as is.

It was fun pairing it with both a 2013 and 2014 rosé from the same producer. You can read about that on the Provence WineZine.

Bon appétit!

~ David

Cailles aux Riz à la Provençale

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, halved and sliced
3 small carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 stalks celery, cut into matchsticks
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon lavender buds, crushed
large pinch salt
3 fresh bay leaves, or 1 dried bay leaf
3 1/2 cups chicken broth, simmering
8 semi-boneless quail, washed and patted dry
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup white wine
1 cup crushed tomatoes

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium-low heat. Slowly cook the onion, carrot, and celery for 10 minutes, until soft but not brown.

Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the rice, herbes de Provence, lavender, salt, and bay leaves and cook for 5 minutes, when rice has turned white and chalky looking.

Add the simmering broth, and cover, reducing the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet and brown the quail on both side, starting with the breast side - about 3 minutes per side. Set aside pan with drippings.

Open the pan with the rice and add the quail, feet facing inward and breast side up. Re-cover and continue to simmer for the remainder of the 30 minutes.

Just before serving, heat the skillet with the quail drippings and deglaze the pan with the white wine. When reduced by half, add the tomatoes and simmer till reduced a bit. Keep warm until it is time to serve. Drizzle the sauce over the quail and rice.

Bring pan with the quail to the table, remove the cover, and serve.

Serves 4.


26 comments:

  1. Your raw quail look like Can-Can dancers. I'm not sure if that qualifies them for fancy or peasant food (I almost typed pheasant). GREG

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    1. More legs than a bucket of chicken? Yes, they do look like icy can-can dancers. I think "tart" is the word we both seek!

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  2. Lovely, David. Sounds great. I agree about thighs, they are more flavoursome.

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    1. Thanks, Liz! Chicken breasts seem to be so flavorless these days... pretty soon the thighs will out-price the breasts!

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  3. Dear David, very elegant setting for your dinner indeed! I have not prepared quail for the longest time - I had the most wonderful recipe with green grapes (seems like ages ago).
    Dir und Mark ein wunderschönes Wochenende - hope you had a great start to the month of May (arund here a month full of celebrations of all kinds it seems, birthdays, national holidays...)!
    Liebe Grüsse,
    Andrea

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    1. Andrea - if you still have that quail recipe, I would love it! I had the best dish once in Heidelberg - maybe it was chicken - but the sauce was cream and grapes and it was ausgezeichnet! I hope that you, Thomas and the girls had a beautiful weekend!

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  4. Just look at those tiny little birds! SO delicate! I've always wished for the opportunity to attend one of your dinner parties, or at the very least to be a fly-on-the-wall so as to see the glorious occasions that they are! This looks like a beautiful setting David. Love the menu too. Just stunning :)

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    1. They only look delicate, Laura! They actually have a very rich games flavor - a lot for a tiny bird!

      Oh, and any time you want, come to Tucson and we will host a dinner party in your honor! xo

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  5. My dear David! Yes, I'm alive and finally feeling better. I'm sorry to have not visited in so long, but feeling out of sorts just doesn't sit well, and then there's the whole self pity thing when you don't feel good. I hope you've been well.
    It took me a minute to catch on to your game night title! I'm reading and reading and waiting for the Monopoly or Scrabble to show up! I think I'm still a bit foggy and definitely out of touch still!
    That's quite a sexy shot of those quail :) I know what you mean about peasant food becoming trendy, sometimes I can't get over the price of chicken wings and flank steak!!! I can imagine the cost of quail. The dinner looks beautiful, David. Lots of love xx

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    1. Nazneen - I have recently been worrying about you... Such silence from Colorado. I am glad you are feeling better, and please never apologize for not looking at food blogs when you aren't feeling well! I am so glad to hear from you.

      I remember getting flank steak as a young starving musician and it is still one of my favorite cuts of meat. Now look at the prices! Yowser!

      Take care, and thanks for putting up with my bad pun!

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  6. That is a lovely looking table with the wineglasses, the candlelight, and the pretty pink of the rosé. We have started drinking rosé again after a period of shunning it. Yum! Also, Moscato for the Summer. Pretty tablecloth, too.

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    1. I love a good moscato, Caterina! Very few people are willing to drink them... or rosés. Me? If it tastes good, do it, whether it is popular or not.

      Glad you like the setting we have on our patio. To me, candlelight looks more elegant outside than in!

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  7. yup, that's why pheasant is healtier than mostly human being, lol
    this is awesome proparetion my friend, worth to try recipe!!!
    Dedy@Dentist CHef

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    1. You are funny, Dedy... but you are right! Hope you like it!

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  8. Looks amazing - adding this to our list of recipes to try.

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    1. Thanks, Nicole - looking forward to your refried beans this weekend!

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  9. Funny, I was just looking at quails at the supermarket the other day (yes, they sell them in supermarkets here!) and thinking of getting them. For some reason, we ate them a lot growing up: I think us kids just liked the idea of eating a miniature chicken. My kids, on the other hand, have never had them and they are curious, which is why I was eyeing them the other day. Ended up not getting them because, like you wrote, there is so little meat on them... but then again, why deprive the kids of the fun we had, right?

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    1. Are they ridiculously expensive there, too, Fiona? We had them occasionally when I was growing up, as my father was a hunter. And they were always full of birdshot. Painful! I think your kids would get a kick out of them.

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  10. They aren't really, although if you compare them to the meat a whole chicken yields, they are a little more pricey of course. The thought of the birdshot is quite unappealing considering the amount of meat on them... but you can't get better quality than the ones you grew up eating!

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    1. That is true. The ones that are farmed are infinitely meatier and have no birdshot! But for 4 tiny little things it's about $20. Still, it's worth it every once in a while.

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  11. The mood set with that table is lovely -- love the light. I'm a huge fan of rustic dishes and this one sounds amazing.

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    1. Thanks, Valentina! Candlelight is my favorite way to dine! It makes the simplest dishes so elegant.

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  12. Yes, I totally see that peasant food thing jumping up the ladder to become haute cuisine! I remember when polenta started popping up on menus in LA, I think it was in the late 80s...and I chuckled. :)

    Your dish sounds similar to a cacciatore dish and I have to tell you, I'm with Valentina...LOVE that first photo! Makes me want to pop through the screen!

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    1. Thanks, Christina! Our favorite thing is to dine al aperto and enjoy the cool evening air in the desert. We love that this year, the season has been so prolonged. No one can remember a May as cool and beautiful as this one. Usually, we are close to 100‚ every day - but lately, it has been in the 70s and low 80s. Gorgeous.

      We, too, remember the arrival of polenta, and pesto, as well. So fancy, those peasants! :)

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  13. I just made this dish with chicken thighs in place of the quail ( per your suggestion) and, even without the exquisite mood you created, it was fabulous! I was able to find the 2014 rosé you poured and agree that it was too light to fully support the meal but it was very good. I imagine it accompanied the chicken better than the quail. Thanks for such a nice post!

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    1. Susan - I am so glad you and Towny agree that the wine was too light for the meal. But isn't it a lovely wine? SO glad you enjoyed the dish - quite tasty, isn't it?

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