Quail on the table are a sign of plentitude and good rain here at the ranch. Other than venison, our land doesn’t naturally provide that much food that we can brag about. But quail is the pride and joy of any special occasion at our table.
Farm raised quail are at the supermarket, usually in the frozen section. Because quail is so lean, it can quickly be over-cooked and dry out, especially when grilling. Many times the processors for quail pack them with a saline solution, which ends up pickling the meat, like a brine.
The preference among quail connoisseurs is that quail retains its firm texture. Look for quail at the market where the ingredients list simply states “Quail”, without water packing or salt added. Like wild caught salmon, quail from the field are just better all the way around. I am seriously in a quail mood now.
And, I have been in a pasta mood these last couple of weeks. More than likely, it’s because I started Weight Watchers again, and pasta falls into the “no bueno” category of food choices. Hence, I want it more that I normally would. Three times in the last 7 days, and counting. Sigh.
Don’t be surprised to see a few more quail recipes from me in the near future. Now that we have hit the absolute apex of the heat index (do you hear that, solar universe? I’m declaring no higher heat from here on…) I’m thinking about heading back into the kitchen.
Once you make the pesto, it functions not only as a pasta sauce, but as a basting oil for the quail, and a toasting oil for a garlicky crispy bread. Take that WW… bread and pasta in the same meal.
Choose a nice fruity white to go with the Roasted Quail and Pasta with Cilantro Pecan Pesto. Even a white sangria would be a good pair with this dish. Easy and good.Print
1 cup olive oil (240ml)
1 tsp. salt (4gr)
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves (10gr)
1/3 cup pecans (33gr)
1 clove garlic
½ cup grated parmesan cheese (50gr)
4 whole quail, prepared for roasting
8 oz. dry spaghetti, or the pasta of your choice
4 slices dense artisanal bread
Using an immersion blender or food processor, combine the olive oil, salt, cilantro, pecans and garlic. Pulse until well combined. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Set aside ¼ cup (60ml) of the pesto for basting the quail.
Heat your oven to 350°F (176°C.) Also, fill a medium saucepan with water, and bring to a boil, which you will need for preparing the pasta.
Place the quail in a large roasting pan. Baste with the pesto, and place in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes, basting with the pesto every 10 minutes. Switch the oven to broil, and brown the quail for 5-10 minutes, until they are the desired level of golden brown. Remove from the oven.
To grill the bread, simply brush on a bit of the pesto on one side of the bread. You can place the bread under the heated broiler for 2-3 minutes to grill, or instead, you could heat a griddle on your stove, and place the bread face down to grill there. Both will give you good results.
While the quail is roasting you can boil the pasta, following the package directions for cooking and cooling.
Once the pasta is cooked, combine with the remaining pesto, and toss to combine well. Place in serving dish, and top with roasted quail. Serve immediately with grilled bread.
For best results, don’t use the pesto you were using to baste the uncooked quail. Try to use up the ¼ c/60ml of pesto that you set aside specifically for basting, in order to avoid cross contamination with uncooked quail meat.
Also, when making the pesto, you could opt for adding hand chopped cilantro and pecans to the blended oil and garlic, for a more distinct texture. Making pesto takes just the tiniest amount of blending with an electric appliance, as a cilantro pecan smoothie isn’t the goal. Work for a toothy, granular texture. I think I over blended the pesto you see in these shots. I will probably hand chop and blend next time.
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