Quail with Mushrooms Sous-Vide

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I’m in trouble. Or at least I may be. I am thrilled and honored that Ireland’s #1 blogger and his famous ‘Wife’ are coming over for a visit. Yes, no one less than the one and only Conor Bofin. But, to my shock I realized I had not prepared and blogged about one of Conor’s recipes for almost three years. The last time was a delicious mince pie that I made for Christmas three years ago. It’s not for lack of mouthwatering dishes on his blog. But somehow I just didn’t get around to it. I’m not sure how he’ll take it. Is he angry and going to kick my ass? With those muscles of his he can do a lot of harm! Or is he hurt because it has been so long that I’ve paid him the compliment of cooking one of his dishes? In any case, there was only way to solve this, and that was to make one of his recipes and post about it, fast!

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And so while time was running out I was pondering what to make. At the market I saw this really nice box of wild mushrooms, a whole kilo (2.2 lbs) of them. And then I remembered Conor’s recipe for quail stuffed with mushrooms and then cooked sous-vide that I really liked. Even though this recipe included some blatant product placement on Conor’s part, it seemed both ingenious and delicious. Ingenious because I had never yet cooked a whole bird sous-vide because it would float and stuffing it solves that problem. And delicious because mushrooms and chicken are a winning combination, so mushrooms and quail (which is basically a better tasting small version of a chicken) would be even more delicious. Luckily they had quail at the market too. And so I had the most important ingredients to make Mushroom Stuffed Quail Sous Vide with Porcini Pasta and Pinot Noir Sauce. As much as I’d like to please my Irish friend, I draw the line at serving pasta as a side dish. So here is my version, and I hope it will be enough to make amends. To make it a true Conor experience, I prepared on a Sunday for my mother (and father). They loved it. And so did I. Conor will be arriving tomorrow, so I better hurry up with the recipe!

Ingredients

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Note the blatant display of the sous-vide cooker on the left. I can do product placement, too, even though I’m not entering a competition with this recipe. I left out half of the ingredients in the ingredient shot on purpose to make Conor feel better.
For 4 servings

4 farmed quail

400 grams (.9 lb) of mixed wild mushrooms

30 grams (1 oz) pancetta, diced

500 grams of cavolo nero

320 ml (1 1/3 cups) of pinot noir

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 shallots

2 cloves garlic

1/2 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley

1/2 tsp of baking soda

2 Tbsp heavy cream

1/2 Tbsp corn starch

Preparation

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Usually I am fine when chopping onions, but this time the shallots made me cry. Was it a sign?
Mince 1 shallot.

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Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the shallots and cook them for a minute over medium heat.

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Add 30 grams (1 oz) of diced pancetta for some additional flavor.

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Stir until the pancetta has lost its raw color.

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Add 200 grams (7 oz) of chopped mushrooms and season lightly with salt. [My quail must be bigger or my mushrooms must shrink more, because 100 grams as per Conor’s recipe just wasn’t enough to stuff those birds. He even had mushrooms left over for the sauce!

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Stir over medium heat until the mushrooms have shrunken and are cooked.

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Add half a tablespoon of minced parsley and a minced clove of garlic.

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Stir briefly to incorporate, but don’t allow the garlic to brown.

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Deglaze the mushrooms with 80 ml (1/3 cup) of a good pinot noir. Conor and I are in full agreement that you should only use good wine for cooking.

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Cook over medium heat, stirring, until most of the wine has evaporated. Turn off the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Poor quail. Better the quail’s head than mine that gets the axe, though. Should I hide that cleaver before he gets here?
Remove the head of the quail and clean the inside (if needed). Remove the neck as well and reserve.

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Stuff the qual with the mushroom mixture. (Do not clean the pan in which the mushrooms were cooked.)

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Tie the quail closed with some kitchen twine around the legs. Season the outside of the quail with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Vacuum seal the quail in individual pouches.

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Cook them sous-vide for about 4 hours at 60C/140F. Even though they are quite small, the cooking time is needed to get them to 60C all the way through and make sure everything is pasteurized.

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While the birds are bathing in the sous-vide, chop another shallot and another clove of garlic. Put the shallot, garlic, and reserved quail necks in the frying pan that you used for the mushrooms. Add a bit of olive oil if needed. Stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes until the onion is golden but not brown.

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Deglaze with 240 ml (1 cup) of pinot noir.

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Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

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Simmer until the wine has reduced by half.

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Strain the wine sauce into a saucepan.

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Remove the tough central vein of the cavolo nero. You should end up with about half the original weight. Cut into ribbons. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add salt, 1/2 tsp of baking soda, and the cavolo nero. Baking soda helps to keep a bright green color and speed up the cooking. You could omit it if you don’t have it, but you may need to blanch the cavolo nero a bit longer. With the baking soda, 4 minutes will suffice.

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Drain the cavolo nero. Up to here you can prepare everything in advance.

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Make sure the broiler has been preheated about 15 minutes before it is time to serve. Brush the remaining 200 grams (7 oz) of mushrooms with olive oil and arrange them in an oven dish in a single layer. Put this dish in the oven, far away from the broiling element.

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Take the quail out of the sous-vide.

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Cut the bags open and add the juices from the bags to the pinot noir sauce.

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I used to think you had to remove the scum that will form when heating sous-vide bag juices first, but I’ve discovered a method to make a sauce from the bag juices that is easier and allows me to keep more of the flavor in the juices. Make a slurry of half a tablespoon of cornstarch with a similar amount of cold (!) water, and add it to the juices before (!) turning on the heat.

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After adding the corn starch slurry, turn on the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring. There will be no scum! Somehow the corn starch works a little magic. Reduce the heat or turn it off as soon as the sauce has thickened.

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Add about 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to soften the sauce.

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Stir to incorporate the cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

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Pat the quail dry with paper towels.

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Arrange the quail on a grilling rack, and brush them with olive oil.

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Broil the quail for about 2 minutes per side close to the element, just enough to crisp the skin a little and to heat them up on the outside.

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Meanwhile, the mushrooms should be cooked. Remove them from the oven as soon as they are.

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Sauté the blanched cavolo nero in a bit of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Serve the quail with the mushrooms, the cavolo nero and the pinot noir sauce on preheated plates.

Wine pairing

It goes without saying that a good pinot noir such as a nice red Burgundy is excellent with this dish.

Flashback

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Tarte tatin is a classic from French cuisine that becomes easier to make once you get a little practice. A real tarte tatin is not made with store-bought puff pastry, but with dough made from scratch.

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27 thoughts on “Quail with Mushrooms Sous-Vide

  1. Aw Stefan … qualis. Qualis always make me think of my grandmother and my stepfather, she Italian, he Scottish. She adored spoiling him and he adored qualis … so, so very often, every time he came over to visit (in Frascati) she would make stuffed qualis for him. Stuffed with sausage … and served with porcini mushrooms. No sous-vide, cela va sans dire … My own butcher said it’s okay to cook quali in a pan, alla cacciatora … mmm. Not sure. I don’t have a sous vide machine and have cooked them in the oven, no problem. But I just looove the idea of stuffing them with mushrooms. Must try! 🙂

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    1. Great story, Jo. My father lived in Osimo (AN) for 15 months in 1963-1964 and my mother visited him there (they were engaged back then — or in fact I think he proposed to her in Italy). Their favorite food was oven-roasted quails from a trattoria in Porto Recanati. My mother said my sous-vide quail was so much more tender and juicy than she remembered.
      Nice idea though to stuff them with sausage. In a pan it would take quite a bit of skill to cook quail without drying them out.

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      1. I know ! they take quite a time to cook, don’t they, despite being so small. And hey! one of these days, in the not too distant futurel, we should spend some time visitng the Marche ! Such beautiful scenery … and art … and food too. Not so well known as the other regions of Italy, and that’s a good thing!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. How wonderful! I can hear the laughter in betwixt the bites all the way to Australia! And I could ‘kill’ you for that wonderful box of mixed wild mushrooms . . . ours seem to come in small packages and cost the proverbial arm and leg! C’mon you four [or more?] DO toast all of us poor Colonials who oh so would love to be there [I’d even clap your sous-vide, non-conformist that I am !!] . . . . . [Oops, am honest, I actually do serve pasta as a side at times . . . now I’ve done it!!]

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  3. That is very interesting to cook the whole quail sous-vide. What I miss in the description is the structure of the breasts and the legs after cooking sous-vide. It is always a challenge to have them both right and I wonder if sous-vide is the solution for this.

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    1. Hi Hein. Both legs and breast were great when cooked this way. Both were tender and juicy. The breast doesn’t need as much time as the legs, but it wasn’t overcooked. That is the beauty of sous-vide. With chicken it is a bit more tricky, as there the difference in tenderness between the legs and the breast is a bit larger.

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  4. I was so intrigued by the recipe I made it this weekend. The taste of the quails is really good and the combination with the mushrooms is great. I thought that 4 hours at 60 C was maybe too long. But when I took out the quails from the sous-vide after 4 hours there was hardly any juice in the bags. Not a good sign. The meat close to the bones was still red, specially the breasts. Maybe my quails were bigger? I will certainly make this again but do them longer and maybe at a slightly higher temperature. Any suggestions?

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    1. Glad you liked the flavor. If the meat close to the bones has reached 60 degrees then there is nothing wrong with the wrong color, it is safe to eat. I am surprised 4 hours was not enough for the breasts, as even for chicken breast (larger than quail) that is plenty.
      Perhaps there was a problem with the circulation if the water in the sous-vide? Were the quails perhaps too close together?
      You could try a longer time (8 hours, but risking mushy meat) or higher temperature (62 or 64 degrees, but risking dry meat). Please let us know what you find.

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      1. So I tried it again! This time the quails were slightly smaller. I pushed more stuffing inside to make sure no air was left. I did it for 5 hours at 63 degrees in the sous-vide. And the result? PERFECT. Very juicy breasts and legs, good flavour and great combination with the mushrooms. Happy I tried it again.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful idea – thank you Stefan! May get a chance to give this a go this weekend (though without the quail necks for the sauce – ours come “packaged” and very small!

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  6. I tried this with a guinea fowl. (I am clearing out the freezer.) And common or garden mushrooms and tarragon instead of parsley. I have been cooking whole chicken in the sous vide at 64 deg for some time, stuffed with herbs, apple and lemon usually, always with good results in terms of breast and leg tenderness and texture. However my guinea fowl at 60deg was good, but I really loved the stuffing and gravy. So I will try the recipe again with real quails and “wild” mushrooms which we can get quite easily. Thanks to Conor and yourself.

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