Ever since I saw “No Reservations” with Catherine Zeta-Jones, I always wondered what it would be like to cook with quail. To my lovely surprise, they were selling it at my weekend winter farmers market! It is such a small, delicate bird that deserves culinary respect. For those who need to counterbalance it’s strong flavor, a perfect buttery, lemony sauce is a possible accompaniment. Although white truffle salt is not everywhere, I decided to use some in this recipe. If it is not available, any flavor salt or even regular sea salt is fine. It’s all about having items in your kitchen that are readily available…but once in awhile, let’s get a little fancy.
I was in Los Angeles at Hollywood’s colorful farmers market and came upon a booth of flavored salts. He even had his own app for Hepp’s Salt! I came upon the white truffle salt and black truffle salt and I had to have both of them. It reminded me again of the movie where Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) was describing so eloquently how she prepared this beautiful bird with wild mushrooms…white truffle butter…and it was all an effort to get him to stop talking about her personal life…so it was an escape for her. What an escape! When I cook, I immediately forget about the craziness of my work life…and fall into a relaxing world of sharing my creations with you. I add the white truffle salt and white truffle oil to the softened butter to create my own version of white truffle butter. Here in Pennsylvania, it’s not so easy to come across white and black truffle mushrooms, but I’m sure in our wonderful world of technology, I could get them online! If you don’t have access to these, you can always substitute another flavored salt and olive oil or just use plain sea salt and olive oil. I love the white truffle way of making this, because it adds a depth and earthiness to the dish. Quail is a more earthy tasting animal. It’s mostly dark meat and the brightness of the lemon adds a lovely balance that tantalizes your taste buds.
I stuff each raw quail with two chopped pieces of lemon, then I cover each bird with the forest green sage butter. It creates a flavorful protective layer. During the cooking process (at least twice), I use a turkey baster and take the lemony emerald green buttery goodness at the bottom and baste each and every bird. This creates the bronzing color on the parts of the bird that aren’t covered by the sage. When I bit into each bird during the meal, every bite has sage buttery goodness.
So, this is the first year, in my hometown, I’ve ever seen quail available. I remember furiously looking online to buy some and attempt to cook with it. If you do not have quail readily available, you can always double the recipe and use Cornish game hens, another favorite of mine. I hope you enjoy making this recipe as much as I did.
Sage Crusted Quail w/Lemony Wine Infused Pasta
6 small quail (no need to debone, since we are stuffing them with lemon)
1.5 sticks of butter (softened)
1 tbsp ground sage
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound fettuccine pasta noodles
zest of 2 1/2 lemons
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup pasta water (reserved)
1 tsp corn starch (optional)
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp sage
1 tbsp cream (greek yogurt for a healthier alternative, will curd slightly with the lemon in the sauce)
1/4 tsp white truffle salt (sea salt can be substituted)
1 tbsp white truffle oil (olive oil can be substituted)
1/4 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 red bell pepper (chopped)
2 spring onions (chopped)
Preheat the oven for 350 degrees.
Place the quail on a baking sheet with either nonstick aluminum foil or use spray oil or grease the pan to keep the quail from sticking. Slice one lemon into chucks and stuff each quail with the lemon. Combine the sage and 1 stick of softened butter, lemon zest of 2 lemons and add salt and pepper to taste. Rub each quail with the lemon zested sage butter. Put in the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 40-45 minutes until it is bronzed. At least twice during the cooking process, make sure you baste the birds with the buttery green sauce at the bottom of the baking pan. This helps the bronzing process and adds tremendous flavor.
Chop the green onions and red bell pepper and put aside. Combine 1/2 stick of softened butter with the white truffle salt and white truffle oil and mix until it is distributed evenly.
Sauce: In a pan, add the white wine, reserved pasta water and the chicken stock and bring it to a boil. Add the truffle butter and let it reduce 10-15 minutes. Put in the sage and mix. Add the cream (or greek yogurt) and stir. If you want it to be thicker, add the optional corn starch and whisk until there are no lumps. Salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze in 1/2 lemon. Add the bell peppers, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce to the sauce and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Toss in the freshly made pasta.
Create a bed of pasta on the plate and place the quail in the middle of the plate. Adorn the quail and the pasta with slices of green onion and ENJOY!!!