With the holidays almost upon us, this recipe is one to add to your roster. It is an elegant dish, and the stuffing is good enough to eat on its own. You can serve it as a side rather than stuff your birds with it, or if you don’t have quail and want to opt for chicken, pheasant or duck—or another bird—it will still be delicious. The tanginess from the white wine mixed with the sweetness from the dried currants is a wonderful combination. The copious amounts of butter also allow the boneless, lean bird meat to stay moist and flavorful. Basting the bird with butter several times during cooking helps prevent too much moisture evaporation.
I suggest deboning the bird first so that the flavors can be scooped up and swallowed together. The birds become little packages this way, which can be tied off with a strand of green onion or chive. Deboning may sound intimidating, but it is really quite simple once you get the hang of it. There are several good online video tutorials that can teach you this process. Or you can simply get a good pair of kitchen shears and cut along both sides of the backbone and remove the spine, which will allow you to wrap the quail around the stuffing but keep the remaining bones in.
Since these birds are small, you’ll want to plan for two per person as an entrée, though you can get away with one per person as an appetizer over a bed of frisée or other tender greens. As an entrée serve it alongside whole roasted baby carrots, or crispy roasted Brussels sprouts.
10 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons finely diced shallots
4 celery stalks, peeled of outer strings and finely diced
1 cup white wine
8 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons dried currants (or finely chopped dried cherries or cranberries)
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
8 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-parsley leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
8 quail, deboned if possible Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Meanwhile, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a small sauté pan and sweat the shallots and celery over low heat, until translucent.
2. Add the white wine and reduce by half.
3. In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, currants, garlic, bread crumbs, parsley and thyme.
4. Once the wine is reduced by half, stir in the bread crumb mixture and cook until it thickens and forms a paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
5. Distribute a lump of stuffing onto the back side of the breast meat of each deboned quail and wrap the leg meat and breast meat around it until it is sealed. Fasten with a toothpick through the seam.
6. Lay the quail in a cast-iron skillet with 4 tablespoons of butter. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, basting the top of the quail with butter three times during the process.
7. Remove from the oven, remove the toothpicks carefully from each bird and serve immediately. Dish serves four.