I like quail. There is something satisfying about having a couple of small whole birds on the plate. Also, they cook quickly and have a nice flavour, but you need to cook them in ways that stop them drying out. In this recipe, I stuffed the birds with herbs, wrapped them in pancetta and roasted them in a pan with wine for around 35-40 minutes. They emerged from the cooking moist and flavoursome, and there was a simple gravy from the wine and cooking juices.
To go with the quail, I served a simple celeriac and tomato gratin.
Ingredients (for two people)
4 oven-ready quail
4 rashers of pancetta (or streaky bacon), each cut in half
4 fresh bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
300ml dry white wine
1 small whole celeriac, peeled and cut into smallish slices
200ml tomato passata
300ml béchamel sauce
a good handful of grated Emmenthal cheese
salt and pepper
First, heat the oven to 180C. Season inside each quail with salt and pepper and stuff with a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf. Wrap the quails with two pieces of pancetta and tie in place with butcher’s string. Put the quails in a smallish roasting pan so that they fit without touching and pour over the wine.
Blanch the celeriac in salted boiling water until soft, but not fully cooked. Drain. In an oven-proof dish, layer the passata and celeriac and top off with the béchamel sauce and the Emmenthal cheese.
Put both the quails and the gratin in the oven on the middle shelf and roast for 25 minutes. You should baste the quails with the wine and cooking juices after 15 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove the string and pancetta so that the skin of the birds takes some colour for the last 10 minutes or so of cooking time. Leave the pancetta in the roasting pan. Baste the quail and return the pan to the oven on the top shelf. The gratin should be golden on top and will be soft inside after around 35-40 minutes and the quails will be nicely cooked through at the same time.
Serve two quail per person, spooning the cooking juice over the bird and with the crisp pancetta on the plate.
These recipes are Italian in style, both inspired by recipes from the classic Italian book, The Silver Spoon, so Italian wines will go nicely. You could drink either a red or a white with this, but personally, I think that a lighter red would work best.