One of the nice things about not having turkey on Thanksgiving is that venturing into that realm of flavors mere weeks afterwards doesn’t seem crazy on account of everyone is sick to death of turkey this and turkey that and leftover sandwiches. Quail taste much better than turkey, and if there’s a way of having leftovers I have yet to figure it out. A four-pack is just enough to make a meal for us, and the only thing left is tiny, tiny bones that I throw in the stock pot on their own to make a little bit for adding to greens or sauce, or mixed in with other bones for a larger volume. They’re fiendishly tasty little birds.
To make them a bit more substantial, and to full-on make out with autumnal flavor clichés, I stuffed them with a smooth paste made from chestnuts, onion, sage, and maitake mushroom. The aroma that filled the kitchen was straight out of a technicolor smell-o-vision holiday spectacular.
I caramelized all the goodness, then added a little stock and a bit of vinegar to balance the significant sweetness of the chestnuts, then puréed it all smooth and piped it into the cavities of the birds, making them temptingly rotund. I dusted them with seasoned flour and set them to brown in the iron skillet with some duck fat. While they cooked, I made a quick cranberry sauce with maple syrup and cider, beat an egg into leftover sweet potatoes, along with a bit of flour, and piped gnocchi (through the rinsed-out pastry bag) into simmering water. Once the birdies were done, I made a duck fat roux in the pan and added stock and cider to make gravy, and then quickly cooked some pak choi in the same pan and deglazed it with white wine and vinegar.
It was pretty much exactly what I wanted, except for the unfortunate lack of about ten more quail. To accompany, a bottle of Matrot’s 2006 La Pièce sous le Bois, which is a wine that I like for the subtle Burgundian seductiveness that sneaks in despite the moderate price ($30). It could use more time, no doubt, but it’s hard to resist, offering as it does the fleeting sliver of a glimpse at the magical kingdom that great Burgundies reveal to their awestruck imbibers.