Given the state of the economy, my boyfriend James and I elected to celebrate Valentine's Day at home. Since I had a six-pack of quail waiting in the freezer, I also chose to give myself the Iron Chef-level challenge of cooking a gourmet meal using only items that we had in the pantry, most purchased from Big Lots and ethnic groceries. Since cooking was done very much on the fly, my measurements are approximate. I started by marinating the Indonesian Quail the night before. Three hours before we were to eat, I started to braise the Red Wine quail. Next I breaded the Lemon-Lavender quail and began the risotto. After that, all hell broke loose. You cannot prepare ahead too much; just do what you can, when you can with this balancing act. I ended up with everything ready at once, and so can you. Here's how:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon mint
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine ingredients and marinate overnight. Heat oven to 375. Cook birds breast side up for 30 minutes. Raise heat to 450 and broil until crisp.
Red wine-cranberry quail
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dried cranberries
pinches of thyme, tarragon and Vegeta (Bosnian seasoning, get it at Cafe Mediterano. I often use it instead of salt.)
Heat oven to 275. Sear the quails in a pan or Dutch oven with some olive oil. Remove birds from pan and add red wine. Reduce for a few minutes, then mix in stock, cranberries and spices. Reduce until syrupy. If using a Dutch oven, throw the quails back in. I used a pan and transferred everything to a schlemmertopf (covered clay pot). Braise for 2 hours. If desired, further reduce sauce on stove top in pan or Dutch oven. When crisping the Indonesian quails, toss these guys under the broiler as well.
Lavender-citrus fried quail
One part whole wheat flour to one part cornstarch
2 tablespoons Palette lavender-citrus rub (I purchased this at Big Lots for a dollar. Go ahead and combine some dried lavender and lemon zest instead if you prefer, though I would recommend only a tablespoon and a half of the more concentrated mixture.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Heat enough canola oil to cover your birds in a tall pot. The quails are so small that I used a sauce pan. Combine flour mixture and spice and dredge quail thoroughly in it. When the oil is boiling, toss in a quail. Cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
1 cup arborio rice
1 small apple
about 6 ounces apple cider
about 10 ounces beef stock
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup Parmigiano-reggiano cheese
Chop apple very finely. I choose, for color purposes, not to peel the apple. The texture of the skin gets cooked to nothing, so it should not be a hindrance, but go ahead and peel if you prefer. Cook apples on medium heat with some olive oil until slightly tender. Add rice and saute until the whites become small within the membranes of the rice. Begin adding liquid, just enough to cover the rice each time, stirring constantly. Continue to add liquids, alternating between cider and stock until rice is tender, but slightly al dente. Grate cheese and stir in.
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