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.

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