I have been fighting off the cranky. This usually means maniacally cooking something, or several somethings, until I am no longer cranky or I am asleep. Hence this meal, conceived at five, served at eight. It does not actually require three hours of prep time unless you start your chicken stock from scratch, like I did, rather than using reserved stock.
For the quail:
4 tunnel-boned quail, bones reserved for jus (figure one or two quail per person – one per person if you’re serving starters and dessert)
1 leek, washed and cut into small dice
2 firm cooking pears, peeled, cored, and cut into small dice
1 t fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup Sauternes
100 g unsalted butter
1 and ½ cups brioche, cubed or crumbled and toasted in your oven until golden brown
For the jus:
The bones from the quail
1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
25 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Madeira
1 and ½ cups white chicken stock
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
For the cabbage
½ pointy cabbage, washed, cored, and chopped into strips (you can substitute Savoy cabbage if you can’t find pointy cabbage)
50 g unsalted butter
1/3 cup white chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Melt 50 grams of butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan until foaming. Add leeks and cook over low heat until semi-transparent, about 7 minutes. Stir in pear, Sauternes, and thyme, cover, and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until pears are crisp-tender and most cooking liquid has evaporated. Toss with the brioche and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Carefully stuff the quail with the pear-leek-brioche mixture, until they are plump like little fat frogs. Truss using trussing thread or twine. You can do this step up to several hours in advance and refrigerate the quail until ready to use (just bring them to room temperature before cooking). Season quail on both sides with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, caramelize the quail bones in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat with the shallots and 25 grams of butter until dark brown. Deglaze with Madeira and add stock. Reduce by half over medium heat, skimming off impurities, strain, and then return to pot to reduce by half again. Season to taste with a pinch of salt and black pepper. It should not require too much. Finish, if desired, with a bit more butter just before serving to add gloss.
Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius (425 degrees Farenheit). In a oven proof pan (I swear by my Scanpan, which is like a luxury sports car, except it’s a pan) heat 50 grams of butter over high heat until the foam subsides. Fry your quail breast-side down, spooning butter over during the frying, until breasts are golden-brown. This should not take more than a couple of minutes. Turn quail breast-side up (tongs work best for this) and immediately transfer pan to oven. Roast for 7-8 minutes (unless you don’t like your quail breast pink, in which case roast for 10-12 minutes). Remove from pan to a plate, cover with foil, and allow to rest for five minutes.
While the quail is resting, melt 50 grams butter in a pan over medium-high until foam subsides and add cabbage, chicken stock, a pinch of salt and some fresh black pepper. Sauté until liquid has evaporated and cabbage is tender, but color is still vibrant.
How you plate this is really up to you. You can spoon jus on the plate, mound the cabbage on top, and place your quail on top of your little cabbage nests. Or, you can spoon the jus directly over the quail. Or you can drizzle the jus all over the plate. The savoury, herby jus cuts the sweetness of the pear-leek stuffing so don’t skimp.
Serves 4, or two very hungry people.