It must be winter: we’re now visiting the game pages. In reality, if we live in the U.S., it’s very unlikely that any of us is going to find real game on our tables, either at home or in restaurants, as I learned some time ago, and have complained about ever since – to perennially indifferent wind, but sometimes we can get pretty close to the real thing. Quail presents one of those opportunities, and it never fails to reward the resourceful stalker.
In fact, quail are grown domestically, and the plump little birds aren’t really that hard to find, at least in New York. I’ve seen them at Citarella, and at Eataly, which is only 2 blocks away, but I usually pick them up at Ottomanelli Brothers, on Bleecker Street, because I love those guys so much.
They are also just about the easiest fowl, domestic or wild, to prepare, at least if you go about it the way I usually do, using a terrific recipe from a book with the perfectly-descriptive title, “Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe“. Unfortunately I learned just this week that the book, together with its two companion volumes by the same authors, is now out of print. I’m hoping that this terrible error will soon be corrected. These 3 books are my favorite go-to cooking guides and inspiration, and have been for years.
I’ve prepared quail in this simple way at least half a dozen times. The recipe, like almost every one by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers that I’ve tried, is absolute perfection, and, yes, very ‘easy’.
- four partially-boned (what a treat!) Plantation Quail, from Greensboro, Georgia, purchased at O. Ottomanelli & Sons Prime Meat Market on Bleecker Street, dried on paper towels and rubbed with sea salt and most of one crumbled dried peperoncino from Buon Italia, placed breast side down over medium-high heat on a two-burner cast iron ribbed pan, several sprigs of fresh thyme from Hawthorne Valley Farm scattered over each, grilled for about 5 minutes, turned, seeing that they were now resting on top of the thyme, grilled for another 5 minutes, served with a drizzle of olive oil and juice from a tiny very beautiful not-yet-identified chartreuse-colored citrus fruit (tasting like a combination of lemon and lime) from Fantastic Gardens of New Jersey
- three different kinds and colors of small carrots from Alewife Farm, simply scrubbed, then rolled in olive oil, salt, and ground pepper on a small ceramic oven pan, roasted at 400º for about half an hour, or until tender, sprinkled with chopped parsley from Phillips Farm
- red kale from Norwich Meadows Farm, wilted with olive oil in which thinly-sliced rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm had been allowed to heat until pungent, seasoned with salt, pepper, a drizzle of fresh olive oil, and a sprinkling of organic lemon juice
- the wine was a California (Mendocino) red, Parducci’s True Grit Reserve Petit Sirah 2013, from Chelsea Wine Vault
- the music we enjoyed toward the end of the meal – and beyond – was Strauss’ Four Last Songs, streamed by WQXR at the very end of its 27-hour marathon memorializing Kurt Masur, who died on December 19; the recording was this 1983 extraordinary performance by Jesse Norman, with Masur conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra