MEAT MATTERS game change
Lamas prepares an Asian marinade of fresh ginger, soy sauce
and sesame oil. Then he rubs sambal on the quail with fresh lime
and fresh cilantro, and marinates overnight before grilling. To
serve, he’ll prepare basmati rice with a bit of sesame oil, sauteed
mushrooms, scallions and pine nuts, creating a little quail-size
nest on the plate.
Other iterations of quail include stuffing the bird with cornbread and dried fruit (Lamas’ Southern-style bird), and stuffing
with jalapeño cornbread and chorizo sausage for a Latino version.
“I’d grill or sear to mark in a pan for about two minutes, then bake
in the oven for about seven minutes,” he says.
Sous vide duck breast with Carolina Gold rice, Sea Island red
peas and country ham demi-glace on the menu at Seviche was the
star of the premier episode of “America’s Best Bites” when the
program debuted on the Cooking Channel in April. “I cryovac the
duck breast with thyme and duck fat, then sous vide for perfectly
cooked-through meat,” Lamas says. “Then, I sear it in a cast-iron
pan with chipotle chili, butter, fresh herbs, duck fat and a hint of
orange, lemon and citrus zest. Next, I flip the breast and baste with
chipotle/lime butter, let it rest for two minutes, then slice it for the
most beautiful, tender duck ever.”
QUAIL ON THE PLATE
In summer 2012, Vitaly Paley opened Imperial in downtown
Portland, Ore. The restaurant, with executive chef Ben Bettinger
at the helm, quickly became known for its healthy, uncomplicated
prep. Bettinger had worked at Paley’s Place in Portland from 2002
to 2006, and his reputation preceded him to Imperial. “We’ve
done squab, game hens, partridge, pheasant and duck from time
to time, but quail has been on the menu since we opened, along
with organic air-chilled chicken,” he says.
One 3½- 4 ounce quail is menued individually as a small plate;
two or three birds are an entree. “They’re shipped to us fresh,
semi-boneless (skin on), so you have the wing and leg bones,”
To prepare, he applies a Moroccan dry rub of cumin, cori-
ander, fennel seed and black pepper. “Then, we place the bird
and a red wine vinegar/honey gastrique in the vacuum sealer,
so we’re imparting quite a bit of flavor into them even before
cooking. That’s followed by a quick grill during which they get
Meanwhile, Bettinger has a cast-iron pot ready on the stove to
start cooking some housemade linguiça sausage. “That releases
a lot of oil and a smoky flavor. We toast the fregola—a Sicilian
semolina pasta that we buy baked—in that oil.” Next, he adds
grilled fennel, then poultry stock, reduces it down and adds butter
and whole mint leaves for a welcome accent to the charred bird
and smoky linguiça.
The finished entree consists of one leg, shaved celery root,
shaved fennel bulb, and marinated black lentils and rhubarb gastrique.
When quail is on the menu at Restaurant Zoe in Seattle, chef
de cuisine James Sherrill likes to prepare it sous vide. “Sous vide
is a great way to retain the moisture of the bird and keep it
medium-rare,” he says.
“Quail is probably the ideal game bird in the restaurant,” Sherrill
adds. “They’re easy to work with, and the price point makes sense
on our menu. They come in fresh or frozen, with the wing and
thigh bones, and the version on the menu isn’t stuffed.”
Typically, he rubs the birds with a paste of sumac, paprika,
cumin and garlic, then marinates them overnight. “I prepare them
sous vide at 129°F for 25 minutes, then I cool them down in an
ice bath,” he says. “I cut them out of the bag and pat dry between
paper towels, and roast them in a cast-iron pan or wood-fired grill.
We finish cooking in the grill for about five minutes.”
The popular made-in-house Grimaud Farms duck confit is
done sous vide, as well, Sherrill says. After removing the legs,
he rubs them down with a ground-up mixture of salt and sugar,
tarragon, parsley, star anise, cardamom, long pepper, black pepper
and shallot, careful not to damage the skin. The following day,
he removes the cure by washing the legs in cold water. He places
them in plastic bags with a generous spoonful of duck fat.
“Sous vide at 168°F for 12 hours. Then, pour ice over the hot
bags before removing the legs,” he says. “Once cooled, place them
in a cast-iron pan with canola oil, then roast for 10-15 minutes
until the skin is really crispy and fried.”