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!
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!
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 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
Mince 1 shallot.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the shallots and cook them for a minute over medium heat.
Add 30 grams (1 oz) of diced pancetta for some additional flavor.
Stir until the pancetta has lost its raw color.
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!
Add half a tablespoon of minced parsley and a minced clove of garlic.
Stir briefly to incorporate, but don’t allow the garlic to brown.
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.
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.
Remove the head of the quail and clean the inside (if needed). Remove the neck as well and reserve.
Stuff the qual with the mushroom mixture. (Do not clean the pan in which the mushrooms were cooked.)
Tie the quail closed with some kitchen twine around the legs. Season the outside of the quail with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Vacuum seal the quail in individual pouches.
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.
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.
Deglaze with 240 ml (1 cup) of pinot noir.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Simmer until the wine has reduced by half.
Strain the wine sauce into a saucepan.
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.
Drain the cavolo nero. Up to here you can prepare everything in advance.
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.
Take the quail out of the sous-vide.
Cut the bags open and add the juices from the bags to the pinot noir sauce.
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.
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.
Add about 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to soften the sauce.
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.
Pat the quail dry with paper towels.
Arrange the quail on a grilling rack, and brush them with olive oil.
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.
Meanwhile, the mushrooms should be cooked. Remove them from the oven as soon as they are.
Sauté the blanched cavolo nero in a bit of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve the quail with the mushrooms, the cavolo nero and the pinot noir sauce on preheated plates.
It goes without saying that a good pinot noir such as a nice red Burgundy is excellent with this dish.
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.