Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chartreuse of Quail

So, who here is sick and tired of me whussing out on this project with soup? Yeah, me too. So I decided that this weekend, I would need to step up my game and make something truly fancy. I was musing over this one morning, thinking of what I could make while flipping through the book, and then turned to the page for Chartreuse of Quail. This multi-step dish involves a truly stunning layered presentation, and specialty ingredients. It would be perfect... if I could pull it off.

First thing is to get the specialty ingredients. Chartreuse of Quail calls for... quail, duh, but also foie gras. These are both pretty hard to find under normal circumstances, even in a big city with a Whole Foods every couple of miles. Foie gras in particular is pretty hard to come by locally, considering Whole Foods has stopped selling lobster for humanitarian reasons. However, there is always the magic of MAIL ORDER MEATS! Yep, there are companies that will overnight foie gras, or whatever interesting and exotic cut of meat you'd care to order. I went with D'Artagnan, which is a venerable company, and much discussed in food blogging circles. D'Artangan sells four-packs of whole quail, and 5-ounce packs of foie gras for what I consider a very reasonable price. I ordered the packs to be delivered overnight for a Friday morning delivery, the day when Husband J takes advantage of his government-mandated flex time. He me the Fed-Ex guy at the door, and our ingredients were safe in the fridge.

Okay, hurdle one accomplished. Next, time to debone the quail. Chartreuse of quail calls for the breasts of the quail to be separated from the rest of the body, and the legs reserved as a garnish for the dish. This is fine when you have a chicken, but with a quail, it's easy to cut straight through the fragile bones and leave sharp points that could cut an unwary eater. I used a paring knife to cut down the sides of each quail's spine, and separated the bones from the rest of the carcass as follows:

Tiny quail bodies.

Cutting the breasts away...

This left me with eight breast slices, and eight legs. I seasoned the breasts with salt and pepper and sauteed them, skin side down, for five minutes.

Then I took the breasts, which were only partially cooked, and set them aside.

I also sauteed the quail legs for use as a garnish.

Next, it was time to prepare the cabbage. I peeled big leaves off of a head of cabbage, and boiled them for five minutes in salted water. I set the leaves aside.

And then I made stuffing by sauteeing some chopped bacon with carrot and onion until the vegetables were browned.

To this mix, I added shredded cabbage and sauteed it all until it was soft, shiny and wilted--about half an hour.

Finally, I made a rich buttery sauce. I deglazed the quail pan with some port wine.

I set that aside, and roasted the quail carcasses with some butter, carrot and onion in a big pan.

Once the veggies and carcasses were roasted, I deglazed the pan with more port.

Then I transferred all of it to a saucepan. I added some herbs and pepper, and some chicken stock, and simmered the lot until it was reduced by half.

I strained the liquid out into another saucepan, and boiled the sauce for 15 minutes.
Finally, I whisked a good sized knob of butter into the pot for a rich sauce.

Ok, all of the elements of the dish have been made. Now for the hard part... molding the chartreuses. Yes, you heard me right... this dish involves molding all of the ingredients into a layered terrine.

First, I buttered some ramekins, and laid a cabbage leaf into each one, letting the sides of the leaf flop over the sides. Next, I scooped some bacon-cabbage stuffing into each mold.

Then, I layered some foie gras, and two quail breasts over the stuffing.

More stuffing went on top of the breasts, then folded the cabbage leaf over the stuffing. Finally, I topped each mold with a round of bread that had been brushed with melted butter.

I chucked the carefully constructed molds into the oven to bake for about a half an hour. Then, with trepidation, I put on my oven mitt and upturned the first mold onto a plate, and...


Wanna see that again from the side? Oh yes you do.

Awwwww yeah.

When we cut the molds open, a delicious mix of quail meat, foie gras, bacon and veggies greeted us.

According to Husband J, this was one of the best things I'd ever cooked, and that it rivals his prior favorite, the Coquilles St. Jaques. I think the coquilles were better, myself, but I thoroughly enjoyed the delicious quail molds. They were tasty. They were impressive. And best of all, these were super EASY to do. Sure, it took a bit of effort and expense to get the ingredients, and time to assemble the things, but overall, there was not much difficulty in putting these together. And they make such a spectacular product. I'd say that this dish wins the prize for "the dish you want to make to impress someone into thinking you are more talented than you actually are. And by the way, DELICIOUS."

Lessons Learned: Just because the dish looks crazy fancy doesn't mean it's difficult to make. Mail order meats are a viable and not too expensive source of specialty ingredients. Foie gras is crazy delicious.

Next Week: Veau Viennoise