Monday, February 6, 2017

Roast Quail with Rhubarb Vici and Strawberry Gastrique

     A Colorful Quail Entrée For Valentine's Day!
     Last week, I went to a market and fresh rhubarb was in stock, so I purchased some for a few recipe projects.  I also noticed some really nice looking ripe California strawberries, so I placed a carton in my basket.  I had some quail at home that needed to be cooked and I started thinking of a recipe idea while walking around in the food store.  After a few minutes, a thought occurred to me.  Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is a classic American dessert and the two flavors could go well with quail.
    The sour flavor of rhubarb naturally goes well with strawberries.  The sweetness of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is okay for dessert, but a sweet sauce is too one dimensional when paired with poultry or game birds.  Instead of leaning toward dessert style sweetness, I figured that featuring a semi sweet tart rhubarb flavor would be best.  Preparing the rhubarb the same way that Carrots Vici is prepared was was the best choice.  Only enough sugar is added to Carrots Vici to accent the flavor of the carrots and a similar amount of sugar would add balance to the tart rhubarb flavor.
     The flavor of strawberries is naturally tart and fruity.  Ripe strawberries are usually only semi sweet.  Once again, a sweet sauce was not the best choice.  Preparing the strawberries as a Gastrique was a good idea because the sweetness of a Gastrique is determined by the extent of sugar caramelization.  Light caramelization results in a semi sweet Gastrique, while dark caramelization results in a savory neutral Gastrique flavor.  When fruit is added to the molten caramelized sugar, the color and flavor is pulled out of the fruit.  The result is a Gastrique that has an intense strawberry flavor that is perfect with poultry or game birds.  
    The colors of today's quail entrée seem to scream out "This is a Valentine's Day entrée!"  The Rhubarb Vici naturally turned out to be a pale pink color.  Slow simmering the rhubarb French Vici style also resulted in a soft pillowy texture that looks interesting on a plate, especially when paired with the classic Valentine's Day red heart color of the Strawberry Gastrique.  Honestly, this was an unexpected surprise, because I had no idea what color the Rhubarb Vici would turn out to be.  As is, the color combination definitely is Valentine's Day all the way!

     Strawberry Gastrique:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup of gastrique.
     A Gastrique can be made far ahead of time.  A Gastrique can be kept in a refrigerator for 6 months, but the Gastrique should be warmed to room temperature before it is served.   
     Step 1:  Boil 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of sugar.
     Boil till the liquid evaporates and the molten sugar starts to bubble.
      *At this point, watch the molten sugar, so it does not burn!
     Allow the sugar to turn a light amber brown color.
     Step 2:  Immediately add 1 1/4 cups of coarsely chopped ripe strawberries.
     *Be careful, because steam will be produced!)
     Do not stir!  Carefully and gently shake the sauce pot, till the molten caramelized sugar seizes the strawberries.
     *The hot molten sugar will solidify like candy.  The flavor and color of the fruit will be pulled into the sugar.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the solidified sugar just begins to return to a liquid state.
     Step 4:  Add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.
     Add 3 tablespoons of brandy.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry white wine.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 2 teaspoons of chopped shallot.
     Add 2 laurel leaves.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
     Add 2 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Step 5:  Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze the back of a spoon.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Pour the gastrique through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic cup.
     *Do not press the fruit pulp through the strainer!  Discard the spent fruit pulp.
     Set the Strawberry Gastrique aside or chill it for later use.

     Rhubarb Vici:
     This recipe yields about 2/3 cup.  (1 portion.)
     Keep in mind that rhubarb leaves are toxic!  Only the red rhubarb stalks should be used.
     The rhubarb is cooked like Carrots Vici.  Rhubarb becomes very soft when cooked, so it is best to just go with the soft texture.  By adding plenty of liquid (2 cups in this recipe), most of the thin sliced rhubarb will soften to a puree texture.  
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1 cup of thin bias sliced rhubarb stalk.
     Sauté till the rhubarb just starts to cook.
     Step 2:  Add 2 cups of water.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till most of the liquid evaporates and most of the soft rhubarb resembles a medium puree consistency.
     *There should still be few slices of rhubarb visible in the soft rhubarb puree.  The finished Rhubarb Vici will have a natural light pink color!
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the Rhubarb Vici warm on a stovetop or gently reheat it to order.

     Roast Quail:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (2 whole quail)
     Quail are usually sold frozen at quality butcher shops and specialty food stores.  Frozen quail can also be found in Asian food markets.  
     Step 1:  Select 2 whole quail
     Remove any tiny feathers that may still be attached to the skin.
     Step 2:  Tuck the wings of 2 quail under themselves, so they look neat.
     Push a toothpick through the legs and breast, so the legs are pointed upward.
     Step 3:  Lightly brush the 2 quail with melted unsalted butter.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of thyme over each quail.
     Lightly season each quail with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 4:  Place the quail on a wire screen roasting rack that is placed on a roasting pan.  (The legs should be pointing up.)
     Place the pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Roast till the quail are fully cooked and light brown highlights appear.
     *Try not to overcook the quail.  Excess browning will dry out the meat!
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the oven and allow the quail to rest for 1 minute.
     Keep the Roast Quail warm on a stove top.

     Roast Quail with Rhubarb Vici and Strawberry Gastrique:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Use a spoon to place dollops of the pillowy soft Rhubarb Vici on the center of a plate as a bed for the Roast Quail.  (About 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup.)
     Place the 2 roasted quail on the bed of Rhubarb Vici.
     Step 2:  Use a spoon to pour about 1/2 tablespoon of the Strawberry Gastrique over each Roast Quail.
     Use a spoon to stream a generous amount of the Strawberry Gastrique on the plate around the dollops of Rhubarb Vici.  (About 2 to 3 tablespoons)
     Garnish with a fresh basil top sprig.

     This Roast Quail entrée has the best representation of natural Valentine's Day colors that could be asked for!  This entrée looks pretty and it tastes great!

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