Sunday's Caille Laqué au Beurre Blanc de Noir, Wild Chickory & Radis Noir Slaw
When the moment came to take out the quails to stuff them, I changed my mind. Stuffing a quail is kind of like playing with your food. Why stuff a little itty bitty bird like this? At most I would get two tablespoons of stuffing into them, and what good would that serve? Better spit roasted and served on a bed of oyster, grey chanterelle, celery root and eggplant dressing, wouldn't you agree?
I decided to use a recipe from my kitchen notebook that I have done on many occasions with excellent results, my spit roasted
Caille Laqué au Beurre Blanc de Noir
Beurre blanc is a sauce made with shallots, butter, and vinegar. When I lived in China, I discovered the magic of a certain fermented black vinegar, called Chinkiang Vinegar, which has a distinctive flavor that when used judiciously, can have a delicious succulent effect in many dishes, and as I have discovered, not just Chinese food. It is a vinegar that is so special and unique that you really have to be careful when you're using it to make sure that it does not assert itself too much.
When roasting delicately flavored birds such as quail, a little goes a long way. The vinegar is made from fermented rice and yeast, and the ingredients on your bottle should reflect nothing else. The fermentation process in this vinegar is what makes it have its special flavor and no amount of sweeteners or salt can recreate it. There are a lot of fakes out there, read your ingredient labels. If you have a choice between one that has salt added and one that doesn't, choose the one without salt.
The goal is to enhance the flavor of the birds and bring out the flavor of the meat with a tangy foil of flavor at the skin, tempered and calmed and lifted by the butter in this classic sauce with a twist. When carefully and repeatedly basted, this sauce can produce a beautiful mysteriously tangy seasoned browned skin that heightens the flavor of the meat. A succesful execution of this recipe means that when you eat this quail, you say: Mmm quail.
For a couple of quails (multiply as necessary), you need:
2 T. Chinkiang Vinegar
6 T. good quality butter
1/2 a shallot
salt and pepper
Puree the shallot and the vinegar and cook it down to about half. Off heat, whisk in the butter in little bits, to create an emulsion. Prepare your quail to roast on the spit, making sure you don't bump them up too close to each other, so that your sauce and the heat can have a chance to reach every part of the bird. Paint the birds with the beurre blanc de noir emulsion, season them with salt and pepper, and set them to roast. Baste them every 3 minutes, 8 times.
What I do is set the timer and execute other tasks in the kitchen in the time between basting. Every time the timer beeps, I quickly drop what I'm doing and give the birds a quick and thorough baste. Careful opening that oven!
I washed, dried, and chopped the wild chickory, minced the onions and apples, sliced the radis noir, and made a salty shallot vinaigrette for the slaw.
I opened the oysters, diced them and added them to yesterday's precooked eggplant, grey chanterelle, champignon de Paris and celery root, and set that in the oven to brown on top while the quails roasted.
When the birds were done, I put them on a warmed serving plate with the dressing all around. I'd say all of the meal from start to finish was on the table within a half an hour (barring the dressing, which was prepared yesterday except for the oysters, which I added at the last minute).
The wild chickory slaw with radis noir was balanced with apple and onion and a salty vinaigrette
I would have been happier with a Condrieu to go with this dish, or even one of the more assertive white Burgundies we see around a lot these days, but we had this leftover Reisling, and it was alright with the quail.
Note: Loic went gaga over the slaw. It's a keeper. I suppose I should think of a better name for it. He was also delighted with the whole idea of oysters in the side to the quail. I think I'll add nuts to the slaw and serve it again soon, perhaps with something like a bacon roasted monk fish.