I met my first quail at dinner in the Chez Panisse restaurant back in the 1970s. When the diminutive whole braised game bird was set in front of me, little legs splayed all to heaven in my direction, I commented: “Well, aren’t these indecent little birds!” Quail are a real gourmet treat. They are easy to cook at home for a special dinner.
They are often confused with partridge (they are called that in the South), another very small bird, but like to walk in groups called coveys instead of flying. Quail is also farm raised these days and available frozen; they will vary in size from 4 to 8 ounces will all their bones, so check your cooking time in the slow cooker so as not to drastically overcook. The white flesh is amazingly firm, succulent, and taste which is very delicate.
Here we braise them whole in the slow cooker and serve on bread so that the juices can be nicely soaked up. If you are using a baguette, you will need 3 slices per person, but if you use a larger bread, use 1 or 2 slices, as needed. Be sure to remember that it is perfect etiquette to nibble the legs and thighs with your fingers as they are diminutive in relation to a dinner knife. Serve with a winter vegetable puree such as I suggest here, Mashed Potatoes with Jerusalem Artichokes and colorful peas, baby vegetables, or a few steamed broccoli crowns to garnish.
Machine Setting and Cook Time: High Heat: 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 8 quail, rinsed and patted dry
- Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 6-ounces fresh mushrooms, thin sliced
Mashed Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 pounds Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), scrubbed
- 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 rounds of French bread
- 1/2 cup minced fresh chives, for garnish
1. Place the onion on the bottom of a slow cooker crock to make a bed of sorts for the birds. Sprinkle with quail with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a skillet and brown the quail on all sides. Remove with tongs to the crock; they can be arranged side by side or stacked. Sprinkle the flour into the butter in the pan, blending well and cooking slightly, then add the wine and broth; stir well and bring to a boil. Scrape out the pan and pour over the quail. Add the bay leaf.
2. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours, or until the meat is tender. At about 1 hour, add the mushrooms. Discard the bay leaves and season to taste.
3. While the quail are braising, make the mashed potatoes. Fill a large pot half full with cold
water; add the lemon juice. Peel artichokes, cut into 1-inch pieces and add to pot. Bring to boil. Cover and boil until artichokes are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Return the artichokes to the dry pot. Add potatoes, salt, and enough water to cover vegetables; bring to a boil. Cover and boil until potatoes and artichokes are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well. Return vegetables to the dry pot and set over low heat. Add the crème fraîche and butter. Mash with a potato masher until mixture is almost smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.)
4. In a skillet, melt the butter and sauté the bread rounds on both sides until golden. Remove and set aside. Remove the braised quail, 2 per person, from the crock to heated plates with 3 pieces of warm bread, arrange the birds on top, and pour over the mushroom juices. Place a scoop of the potato and Jerusalem artichoke mash on the side. Sprinkle with chives.
Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. (c) 2005/2016, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.
Mashed Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, Winter 2001.