So Two Hot Potatoes local game dealer/friend/coworker Jeff was kind enough to share some of his freshly killed quail with me this week. Since it’s not really grilling season I had a bit of a tough time deciding what to do with them. At one point I was going to stuff them with bleu cheese, wrap them in bacon and roast them in the oven. I also thought about making a cuban style quail & yellow rice, and after that I thought about making a giant pot of quail & andouille sausage gumbo. But as usual, my craving for carbohydrates, specifically pasta, overruled all of my other ideas.
So I searched through my fridge & pantry to figure out what I could throw together to make a delicious, hearty pasta with quail. Luckily and obviously, I had white wine & butter on hand, and then I randomly had prosciutto and some frozen sage in my freezer. It’s unplanned dishes like these that either turn out amazing or disastrous, and I’m glad this turned out to be the former.
Braised Quail & Prosciutto Pasta (serves 2-3 people)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TBS very finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup prosciutto, roughly chopped
2 fresh sage leaves and 6 or 7 rosemary leaves, chopped very fine together
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 TBS butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino cheese
1/2 lb angel hair or fettucini pasta
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
Wash the quail inside and out under cold running water, then pat thoroughly dry with kitchen towels.
Choose a sauté pan that can contain all the quail in one layer. Put in the oil and turn on the heat to medium high. When the oil is hot, add the quail. Brown the birds on all sides, then remove them from the pan. Leave the heat turned on.
Add the chopped onion, prosciutto garlic, sage, and rosemary, and cook for a minute or two, stirring frequently. Return the quail to the pan, adding salt (sparingly as the prosciutto is salty) and pepper.
Turn the birds over a few times, and after 2 or 3 minutes, add the wine. Let the wine bubble for a minute or less, then turn the heat down to medium low and put a lid on the pan.
When the quail have cooked for 20 minutes, add the butter & chicken broth, turn the birds over two or three times; put the lid on the pan, setting it slightly ajar; and cook until the quail meat comes easily off the bone, another 25 minutes or so. Check the pan from time to time, and whenever you find that the cooking juices are drying up, add 2 to 3 tablespoons chicken broth.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the quail from the pan, and as soon as they are cool enough for you to handle, remove the skin and take the meat off the bone. Look out for and pick out any tiny bones.
Return the meat to the pan, and turn it in the pan juices for a minute or two over low heat. Toss the pasta with the entire contents of the pan, adding pasta cooking water as necessary, then adding freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese – I used about 3/4 of a cup – I like A LOT of cheese (toss quickly or the cheese won’t combine as well).