Friday, September 24, 2010

Roast Quail With Fresh Figs And Balsamic

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This is the recipe that finally made me break down and buy demi glace.  For those of you who don't know about demi glace, it is the basis of all great sauces. It is traditionally made by combining equal parts of veal stock and sauce espagnole, the latter being one of the five mother sauces of classical French cuisine.  The mixture is then simmered and reduced by half. Wish it were that simple. The process is a long one, long enough for me to encourage you to buy a good demi glace and forget about making it from scratch.  Williams Sonoma has a great product and although it is expensive, it is well worth the cost and it goes a long way.  For most sauces you will only need a tablespoon or two.  Get the veal one, it is the mother of all demi glaces. 

You can also get a less expensive demi glace through Amazon. It is the one I used in this recipe and it is excellent.  It is good for 6 servings.

More Than Gourmet Demi-glace De Veau Gold® French Veal Demi-glace, 1.5-Ounce Units (Pack of 6)

This recipe is not as much trouble as it looks and most of it can be made the day before.  It is a wonderful main course for a dinner party, one in which you will surely impress your dinner guests.  I would suggest though that you make it for a group of close friends.  This is definitely not for elegant want to be able to get at those little morsels next to the bone and the picture won't be dainty but definitely worth the effort.  I have had quail before at a restaurant and unfortunately was not able to enjoy it to the fullest. This time, I made sure I got every bite and then some!  The stuffing is to die for and can definitely be served  with something else such as cornish hens.

This is your chance to get out your finger bowls and nobody will call you a snob.  They are much needed in a dinner like this and instead of using a pretty flower, I would go straight for a thin slice of lemon.  You will need it to wipe your dainty little fingers after you finish off those birds!

You will find quail at some grocery stores in the frozen meat bin but if you are lucky and live near Atlanta, you can find it fresh at the DeKalb Farmer's Market.  They are tiny little things, so get at least 3 per person. The market also had demi glace at a good price so I hit the jackpot!

Figs before browning

The stuffing

The sauce before the demi glace

After the demi glace...almost done!

The little quails before they went in the oven

Just out of the oven with figs in back

Printable Recipe

Serves 4


For stuffing

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 celery ribs, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

1/3 cup veal demi-glace

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon fig balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup chopped walnuts (2 oz)

2/3 cup soft dried Mission figs (1/4 lb), stems discarded and figs finely chopped

1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For figs and sauce

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

1 pt fresh figs, stems discarded and figs halved lengthwise

1/4 cup finely chopped shallot

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup dry red wine

1 1/3 cups veal demi-glace

1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch

2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For quail

12 semiboneless quail

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Special equipment: kitchen string; wooden picks


Make stuffing:

Cook onion, celery, and garlic in butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 10 minutes. Add demi-glace and boil, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in tarragon, vinegar, walnuts, dried figs, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper, then spread stuffing on a plate to cool.

Prepare figs and make sauce:

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown figs, cut sides down, without stirring, about 3 minutes. Transfer figs to a bowl with a slotted spatula. Add shallot and celery to skillet and sauté, stirring, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine and 8 to 10 browned fig halves (reserve remainder) and boil, stirring and mashing figs, until wine is reduced to a syrup, about 5 minutes. Stir in demi-glace and bring to a boil. Stir arrowroot into vinegar until dissolved, then add to skillet, whisking to incorporate. Boil sauce 2 minutes, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart heavy saucepan, pressing on and then discarding solids. Stir in tarragon, salt, and pepper.

Prepare quail:

Discard any disposable metal skewers from cavity of each quail, then rinse quail inside and out and pat dry. Stuff 1 quail with a scant 1/4 cup stuffing, pressing and shaping it to fill out breast. Tie legs together with string and push legs up against body. Thread cavity closed with a wooden pick. Repeat with remaining quail.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F.

Sprinkle quail all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon each butter and oil in cleaned 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown 6 quail on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer with tongs to a large shallow baking pan. Wipe skillet clean and brown remaining 6 quail in same manner in remaining tablespoon each of butter and oil.

Remove strings and picks from all quail, then roast quail, breast sides up, until just cooked through (check inner thigh —, 20 minutes. Add reserved browned figs to pan for last 2 to 3 minutes of roasting.

While quail roast, return sauce to a simmer, then add remaining 2 tablespoons butter, whisking until incorporated.

Transfer quail and figs to a serving dish and pour any juices from baking pan into sauce. Serve quail with sauce.

Cooks' notes:

Stuffing can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before proceeding. Figs and sauce (without remaining 2 tablespoons butter) can be prepared 1 day ahead and cooled, uncovered, then chilled separately, covered. Bring sauce to a simmer before adding butter. Quail can be browned 1 hour before roasting. Keep quail, uncovered, at room temperature.

Wine: A red Burgundy or Oregon Pinot Noir such as Domaine Drouhin

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
All photos Lindaraxa


  1. Figs do not develop in NW gardens until the tree is quite mature...boy I miss them; both my mom and uncle had huge crops each year and we would just roll in them...what a treat...greatly missed..and this recipe brought back the good taste and times of days gone by...francy

  2. This sounds incredible and perfectly doable. Luckily quail is available where I live although have never tried. Your recipe has encouraged me to get some next time I see them. thanks!


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