Monday, 11 February 2013

Ballotine of quail with bacon infused polenta, crispy kale and girolles

Well this monday lunch was a bit of a challenge. When I started this blog it was just to write about the everyday things that I cooked, but it seems like I have unleashed an absolute monster. Now I find large chunks of my days off taken with making extravagant lunches, and the days in between mulling over what to do the next time. It’s funny to see how things have changed, but I do really enjoy it and I am definitely a better and more imaginative cook as a result of having to motivate myself every week. Having a weekly blog to write means that I have a deadline and drives away any laziness!

It also means that I have to try and vary things as much as possible. Pasta and fish are probably the foods that I love the most, but what would be the fun in writing about them every single week... Frankly, I dread to think how boring it would be to read too! 

I thought it was about time that I returned to poultry, probably the thing I cook the least outside of very simple day to day cooking. If I'm planning a special dinner then something like chicken is often one of the last things that I think of. So this week I have made a quail dish. Quail is something that I’ve never really cooked with before, but I had an idea in my head for a recipe using quail with polenta, mushrooms and kale so thought that it would be worth an experiment.

Boning a whole bird to use as a ballotine was something that I was worried about the most. I don’t think that my knife skills are too bad, but I’d never tried doing anything like this before. After doing a bit of research and watching some videos on youtube, when it came to it the process wasn’t too bad. Somehow I managed to bone the tiny quail without any ruptures on my first go, I just took my time and was very careful. I feel like this is a bit of a personal achievement; my dad often bones a whole duck for Christmas dinner and it’s always so impressive, now I feel like I can talk to him about how he does it.

Kale and girolles are bang in season and are great things to be eating at the moment. They’re so delicious fried quickly with a bit of butter or in hearty soups. 

Serves 2


For the quail: 

2 quails
2-3 chicken livers, sinew removed
1 bulb garlic
50g spinach leaves
1 tsp thyme leaves
5 thyme sprigs
1 knob butter
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

For the polenta:

50g quick cook polenta
400ml whole milk
1 shallot, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 rashers streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
5 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper

For the kale:

1 large handful kale leaves, shredded
1 large knob of butter
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the mushrooms:

15-20 girolles, brushed clean
1 garlic clove
1 knob of butter
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

The quail carcasses
500ml good chicken stock
1 large glass dry white wine
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 knobs of butter
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180ºC Fan. 

Start by preparing the quail. Break up the bulb of garlic but leave the skins on the cloves. Put into a small oven dish with the thyme sprigs, seasoning and a little olive oil. Mix well, cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cloves are soft and tender. Peel the garlic while still hot and mash up with a fork to a rough puree. Set aside to cool down. 

Heat up a medium saucepan to a medium heat and add the knob of butter. When melted drop in the spinach and seasoning, and cook for a couple of minutes until wilted down and tender. Allow to cool then squeeze out the moisture. 

While the garlic is cooking and the spinach is cooling down prepare the quail itself. Holding the quail breast side down on a chopping board, make an incision down the length of the bird. Very carefully follow the contours of one side of the carcass with the point of the knife, making sure that you don’t break the skin. This is quite tricky without practice so worth taking time over. Repeat on the other side until you are left with a clean carcass and one boneless piece of meat. Keep the bones for the sauce.

Lay the boned quail skin-side down on a board lined with cling film. Lay some of the cooked spinach leaves on top, then spread on some of the roasted garlic. Cut the chicken livers into long strips and arrange down the centre. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and season well. Try not to over-fill, as this will make it likely to fall apart later on. Taking one end of the cling film, carefully roll the quail so that the filling is completely encased by the skin, then seal the cling film around the ballotine and tighten the ends. This package needs to be sealed enough to keep out any water when they are poached later. 

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the boil. When hot, drop in the quail packages and cook for 3 minutes before removing. Allow to cool in the cling film. This will help the quail stay in a sausage shape for the rest of the cooking process. You can secure the ballotines with string if they need it once unwrapped.  

To make the sauce, heat a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the quail bones and cook until well browned on all sides. Add the shallot, garlic, thyme and bay and fry for another couple of minutes until softened. Pour in the white wine and reduce by half, then top up with the stock. Season well. Reduce right down until only about 150ml remains and the sauce has thickened a little. Strain into a small saucepan and allow to cool to finish later. 

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

While the oven is heating up make the polenta. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the bacon, garlic, thyme, shallot and seasoning and simmer for a few minutes until the bacon is cooked. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with cling film and allow to infuse for about 20 minutes. 

Once the milk has infused, strain the milk - discarding the flavourings - and pour back into the pan. Bring to the boil. When hot, tip in the polenta and stir well for a couple of minutes until the polenta has expanded and is a wet, spoonable consistency. Taste, season and keep warm while you finish the dish.

Heat a medium frying pan with a large knob of butter and a tablespoon of oil to a medium-high heat. When frothing place the unwrapped and secured quail ballotines and fry for a couple of minutes each side until the skin is golden. Basting with the butter continuously will help achieve this. Remove from the pan, place on a lined baking tray and put in the oven for 6-8 minutes, until a skewer poked into the middle comes out hot. 

While the quail is cooking, reheat the quail frying pan and a separate medium pan on a medium heat, with a knob of butter in each. Add the garlic and girolles to the quail pan with some seasoning and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the kale to the other pan with seasoning and 1 tbsp of water and again cook for 2-3 minutes until slightly crispy.  

Heat up the sauce, then add the butter and whisk well to emulsify. Taste and season if needed. 

Reheat the polenta and adjust the seasoning. 

To serve, spoon some of the polenta into the middle of the plate and top with some of the kale. Slice each ballotine into three pieces and arrange on top of the kale, then place some of the girolles round the sides. Pour over some of the sauce and serve.

1 comment:

  1. This was incredible. I didn't make the quail, just the polenta with girolles and kale. I threw the polenta flavourings in with the kale, too. And added a little Parmesan to the polenta. To die for, thank you!