herb-roasted quail, balsamic sauce; roasted squash; rabe

This menu seemed a little premature for September, game and roasted squash being pretty much an autumn meal, but fortunately the weather cooperated (I wouldn’t want to cook or serve this dinner in warm weather), and the the sun actually haded cross the celestial equator and headed south exactly 24 hours earlier.

I want to add that despite its appearances, and while it may be hearty, no butter was harmed in the making of this meal.

  • two whole unboned pasture-raised certified organic quail from Abra Morawiec’s Feisty Acres Farm in Jamesport, Long Island, weighing in at a little more than 8 ounces each, washed and dried both inside and out, each cavity stuffed with a quarter of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market and a half share of the following mix: 4 rocambole garlic cloves from Keith’s Farm, peeled and bruised a little, the leaves of 2 fresh thyme sprigs, also from Keith’s Farm, the leaves torn from one branch of fresh rosemary from Willow Wisp Farm, and one and a half tablespoons of a house Portuguese olive oil from Whole Foods Market; the quail was then rubbed with olive oil and sea salt, trussed with string (basically just seeing that the legs were held together and the wings kept pressed against the breasts), the birds set aside and allowed to come to room temperature (allowing at least 20 minutes from the refrigerator altogether), at which time they were quickly browned on all sides inside a small heavy enameled cast iron oval pan and, using celery stalks to keep the birds breast-upright while they roasted (alternatively, using sections of fennel stems, or whatever suitable vegetable might be available) inside a 425º oven for about 18 minutes, but most importantly, until an instant-read thermometer registered 150º (the meat should also feel slightly firm, and the juices run pale pink when the bird is punctured with a skewer), the birds removed from the pan when done and set aside on a warm plate to rest for about 10 minutes, loosely tented with foil, while the sauce was assembled, beginning with discarding the celery stems and placing the roasting pan on a burner above medium heat, adding a little chicken stock or wine (I used a sherry, Lustau, ‘Papirusa’ Light Manzanilla Sherry, from Sherry Lehmann), deglazing the pan by scraping any browned bits off the bottom, bringing the liquid to a simmer, then pouring it into a small pot or sauté pan with about half a cup of a (hopefully inexpensive) balsamic vinegar, increasing the heat to high and boiling the liquid down to a syrup, or until it is able to coat the back of a spoon (it will look a bit like a chocolate sauce), the quail served on the plates with the sauce drizzled over the birds

  • one 5-inch black futsu squash (I can’t praise these bumpy, heavily ribbed Japanese members of the moschata family highly enough) from Alewife Farm, scrubbed, halved, the seeds removed, cut into one-inch wedges, brushed lightly with olive oil and rubbed with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and one large section of a golden dried habanada pepper, (I actually tossed it all inside a bowl this time, to make it quicker and easier) arranged on a large, unglazed, well-seasoned ceramic pan and roasted in the 425º oven on one side for 15 minutes, turned onto the other side and allowed to roast for 15 more minutes, removed from the oven and transferred to a large copper sauté pan in which 2 cloves of Keith’s Farm rocambole garlic had been gently heated in a bit of olive oil along with some roughly-chopped sage from Echo Creek Farm