This dish is something of an Italian country classic. If you can’t easily find quail you can substitute a Cornish game hen or any other small bird. Covering the breast of the quail with bacon helps keep the meat of the small bird moist, while also contributing extra smoky flavors. Small birds can be a little frustrating to eat with a knife and fork. They really are much easier to tear apart and eat with your hands. This is the sort of thing for an early fall dinner party on the patio rather than a black tie dinner.
Sourcing quail has become easier in recent years. Some upscale grocery stores will have farm raised birds frozen in netting or cryobagged in the freezer case. If you want the birds fresh and unfrozen then it’s best to seek out a full service butcher who can usually get them for you or point you in the right direction.
This recipe calls for using a deboned bird. If you can’t find a deboned bird you will need a longer cook time in the oven.
Enamel coated Dutch oven
Heavy duty tin foil
Small sauté pan
1 whole quail, deboned
2 slices of nitrate free bacon
½ teaspoon of sage, chopped fine
½ cup of cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
2 tablespoons of duck fat
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ of a red onion, julienne cut
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
½ cup of white wine (Pinot Grigio)
Here is how to make a classic Italian dish from quail
Step 1: Take the deboned quail out of the refrigerator. Rub it with salt and pepper, cover it and leave it out on the counter for 15 minutes.
Step 2: Preheat the oven to 300 F.
Step 3: Wrap the quail in 2 slices of nitrate free bacon.
Step 4: Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat in an enamel coated Dutch oven over medium heat. When the fat melts, place the quail in the pan. Brown the quail on all sides.
Step 5: Place the Dutch oven in the 300 degree oven. Roast for 7 minutes. If you are using a larger bird like a Cornish game hen I would roast for 10 to 12 minutes. If the bird you are using still has bones, then double the time roasted in the oven.
Step 6: Place the pine nuts in a small sauté pan over low heat. Toast for 3 to 5 minutes or until they take on a medium golden brown.
Step 7: Remove the quail from the Dutch oven and tent it under heavy duty tin foil to retain the heat.
Step 8: Take the Dutch oven out of the oven. Place it on the stove top over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and tomatoes. Sweat them for 2 to 3 minutes or until the garlic starts to turn a medium golden brown. Then add the wine and lemon juice. Reduce the heat to low.
Step 9: Gently lay the quail over the sauce and allow it to reduce by half.
Step 10: Lay down a bed of toasted pine nuts on the plate. Set the quail over top. Then lightly pour the sauce over the bird.
I like to serve this with a side of sautéed baby Portobello mushrooms and a glass of cold Pinot Grigio.