Sardines, Quail, and Lamb too obscure?

Apr 5th, 2008

This week Lenore got me thinking that my menus for our Small Plates with Wines classes may have strayed too far left of center. She said we usually have only one item that might be considered out side of mainstream. Neither of us believes lamb is in that category, but when served with two courses that are not so common, well, it just got both of us thinking.

When class started we had some guests who actually reported they had signed up for this class because we were serving sardines. Unfortunately, sardines have just been named to the endangered list and we used fresh halibut instead. The sides and flavors on the plate were matched to the sardines, but went quite well with the halibut, too. One guest told me that the halibut course was the favorite last night until we served the grass fed free range lamb from Anderson Valley. She was thrilled with its tenderness and couldn’t believe how great the forbidden black rice went with it.

In between those two courses, we slipped in a proscuitto wrapped sausage stuffed quail. The dinner companion of the guest who liked the lamb best was not as intrigued with the quail. He wished more quail flavor came through. My spicy pork sausage was the dominant flavor he said. Thinking about it now maybe Lenore’s comment about serving quail, lamb and sardines on the same menu made me make the choice I did. I was trying to introduce the quail with some familiar flavors. I liked it allot, and would do it again, and yet will remember that feedback the next time I stuff quail.

In last night’s class there was several in fact the majority of people who had been here before. A group of ten women, escaping husbands and children, and bonded together for the last 20 years by college, seemed to enjoy last night’s dinner the best of the three times they were here.

What prompts me to write about this is that the answers to a chef’s questions are usually right in front of him or her. I got the feedback that I needed to continue letting my inspirations take me into new territory for our menus. And by now I think I have made it clear to our guests that we want them to make our recipes their own. It always pleases me when they have no trouble saying what they might do differently.

I am going to include that quail recipe here. Since I made the sausage, I suggest for more quail flavor, one might use less seasoning in the sausage or actually make it with ground quail rather than pork. Tell me what you think.

SPICY SAUSAGE STUFFED QUAIL
Spicy sausage:
½ # pork shoulder, cubed**
2/3 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sweet paprika
2/3 tsp chili powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp fresh ground coriander
1/2- 1 TBS EVOO (add to make up for Pork fat when substituting all quail or chicken meat)
**You may substitute with 1/2# of ground quail and chicken thigh meat for the pork so more quail flavor comes through.

Sausage method :< /b> Place spices over cubed meat and toss to coat completely. Refrigerate. Grind after meat has rested under refrigeration for 30 minutes. Make a small meatball of the sausage and cook in a small pan or in the microwave to check the seasoning and mouth feel (fat). Proceed as directed below.

Quail Breasts
4 each quail breasts
4 oz sausage mixture
4 slices Prosciutto
4 rosemary spears, needles removed
1 TBS light sesame oil
As needed fresh grind of coriander
1 lemon quarter
Quail method: stuff breasts with 1 TBS sausage mixture; wrap breasts with Prosciutto and skewer with rosemary spear; season with sesame oil and coriander. Sear quail on preheated grill to mark; remove and finish cooking in 375F oven for approximately 5-8 minutes or until it reaches 160F. Spritz with lemon before serving.