Meal in a box dinners tout all kinds of fun origins and catch-phrases: “Chef inspired!” “Easy to make!” “Seasonal!” “Perfectly Portioned!”.
A few years ago I got approached by a local food service that delivers chef-inspired menus to home cooks. I thought I’d give it a shot, even though it felt a little weird and canned to me. I spent weeks devising and testing a blend of seasonal recipes and coordinating with purveyors on products for the necessary “paint by numbers” approach included in the box. It was, a learning experience.
I did 3 recipes: two easy ones, and, this quail. Oh the quail. My chef brain had been deep in the throes of making complex plating recipes for my line cooks. In the midst of the restaurant hustle and bustle, I thought it would be no problem for home cooks, coming back after a busy day of work, to butcher some jumbo French quail, de-bone them, make a stock (preferably from their bones) and reduce it with black trumpet mushrooms, pan-roast the quail and make mashed-potatoes with a puree of parsley root, on the fly.
Chicken and gravy, right? Yeah, not so much. The owner of the business complained subscribers were saying the recipe was too complicated and involved. Ornery and obstinate, I told them they wanted recipes from a chef, and they got some. In hindsight, the owner and I both should’ve thought more about the audience all the food was going to, before mass quantities were shipped. But now, years later, the thought of people opening up their dinner box expecting the plug-and-play boneless chicken breast or quick stir-fry they were used to, only to find this French quail tour de force instead, makes me chuckle. What do you think, too much for a casual weeknight dinner at home? 🙂
(Chef’s notes 2020)
This is a good recipe, but it’s a commitment. Better to think about it broken down into 3 recipes you could make individually: marinated poultry, black trumpet sauce, and parsley root mash. Parsley root you will probably need to grow yourself, or substitute parsnips. Halved cornish hens or poussin are a good stand-in for quail.
Quail with Parsley Root-Potato Puree and Black Trumpet Mushroom Sauce
- 2 grams dried black trumpet mushrooms
- 4 cups chicken stock preferably homemade
- 1 tablespoon shallot diced ¼ inch
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter plus one tablespoon for finishing the sauce
- ½ cup dry sherry
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 2 jumbo French quail
- 2 leaves of sage torn
- 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 large sprig of rosemary bruised and broken into pieces (do not remove the leaves from the stem)
- 1 large clove of garlic sliced
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup flavorless oil like canola or grapeseed
- Parsley root-potato puree recipe follows
- The day beforehand, prepare the quail. Put the quail on a cutting board with the breasts facing down. With a kitchen shears, cut the back of the quail following the back bone so that it lays flat on it’s breasts. Using a sharp paring knife, or just your fingers, remove the ribcage, wishbone, and breastbone (optional). If you really want to impress whoever will be eating the quail with you, remove the thigh bones as well. Roast the bones until golden in a 350 oven and reserve.
- Combine the quail with the marinade ingredients and mix well, then put in a bowl or another container and wrap with plastic. Allow the quail to marinate overnight, or at least for a couple hours.
- Rehydrate the black trumpet mushrooms in stock to cover for 15 minutes, then remove, tear them in half lengthwise and swish them back in the water to remove any debris on the inside, like pine needles or dirt. Remove the mushrooms and mince, then strain the stock and recombine the two.
- Simmer the roasted quail bones with the black trumpet chicken stock for an hour or so, skimming occasionally. Strain the stock, you should have about 2 cups left.
- Heat a small sauce pan with the teaspoon of butter and add the shallots. Brown the shallots lightly, deglaze with the sherry add the reserved stock, mushrooms and liquid. Simmer the sauce while you cook the quail, it needs to be reduced to about ¼- ½ cup.
- Preheat an oven to 350. Meanwhile, heat a saute pan with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Remove the quail from the marinade and dry them thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, then put them skin side down in the pan. Cook the quail until the skin is golden and crisp, then finish cooking in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the quail is just done, and the juice from the leg runs clear.
- To finish, heat the sauce, then whisk in the butter to thicken it and reduce the heat to low. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon easily, like gravy. If it doesn’t, reduce it a while longer, or add another nub of butter rolled in flour. Double check the seasoning for salt and adjust as needed.
- To plate the dish, spoon some of the parsley root-potato puree on the middle of a dinner, then arrange the quail on top with the feet pointing away from you. Drizzle some of the sauce around and serve immediately with extra sauce alongside.
Parsley Root-Potato Puree
- 2 lbs russet potatoes peeled and diced into 2 inch pieces
- 1 lb parsley root peeled and grated
- 1.5 cups cream
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter diced and chilled
- Kosher salt to taste
- Cook the potatoes until tender in lightly salted water, meanwhile, cook the parsley root in the cream until tender.
- Puree the parsley root and cream until very smooth, adding the diced butter as it’s pureeing. Drain the potatoes and pass them through a food mill, then mix with the parsley root puree and chopped parsley.
- Double check the seasoning for salt and serve immediately, or keep covered in a warm oven until needed. If you hold the potatoes warm, don’t add the parsley until just before you serve the potatoes to keep it green and preserve the flavor.