The quail may have been domesticated, but it still tastes wild, which is a very good thing.
It’s one of our favorite entrées, even if it doesn’t appear on our table very often. It only showed up this time because, while looking for something else inside the packaged meat case in La Macelleria at Eataly Flatiron, I spotted a bag with 4 unfrozen partially-deboned quail.
- four partially-boned (a tweak which is always a treat for cooks and diners) farmed quail, weighing just over one pound together, from Pat Lafrieda, via Eataly’s La Macelleria, rinsed, dried on paper towels and rubbed with sea salt and a judicious amount of crumbled dried peperoncino Calabresi secchi from Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market, placed breast-side-down over medium-high flames on top of a heavy 2-burner seasoned cast iron ribbed pan, a number of sprigs of fresh local Goodness Gardens thyme from Chelsea Whole Foods Market scattered over each, grilled for about 5 minutes, then turned over and, ensuring that they were now resting on top of the thyme, grilled for another 5 or 6 minutes, served on the plates with a squeeze of a local lemon, a very sweet small fruit from one of the greenhouses of Fantastic Gardens of Long Island in the Union Square Greenmarket, and a drizzle of olive oil
- one 5-inch white pumpkin squash from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed, halved vertically, the seeds and pith removed, cut into wedges averaging a half inch thick on the outside end and mixed by hand inside a large bowl with a relatively small amount of olive oil, sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and pieces of crushed dried habanada pepper, arranged in one layer on a large, unglazed, well-seasoned Pampered Chef ceramic pan and roasted at 425º for 25 minutes or so, removed from the oven and transferred to a large heavy high-sided copper pot in which 6 or 7 very small crushed cloves of Keith’s Farm rocambole garlic and more than a dozen sage leaves from Whole Foods Market Chelsea had been gently heated in a bit of olive oil, the squash gently mixed in with a wooden spatula
- a portion of one Savoy cabbage from Norwich Meadows Farm (a remainder from the 2 heads used in the previous day’s meal), sliced into one-half-inch ribbons, sautéed in a scant tablespoon of olive oil inside a heavy medium-size tin-lined copper pot until wilted but still a little crunchy, stirring occasionally, seasoned with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, 5 or 6 slightly smashed juniper berries mixed in, a few tiny drops of balsamic vinegar added and the mix stirred over the heat for only a moment, arranged on the plates and finished with a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was a super – if the phrase can be excused in this context – Italian (Tuscany) red, something of a maverick, Argiano Non Confunditur 2015, the gift of a Berlin friend who had been a guest for dinner on an earlier occasion
- the music was the extraordinarily beautiful 2014 ECM album, ‘Harrison Birtwistle: Chamber Music’