Seared Quail, Red and White Quinoa, Polenta, Roasted Zucchini with Montegrato Pedro Ximénez Reduction

When I do dinner parties, I don’t actually get to really enjoy my food that much because I’m busy cooking and plating and moving onto the next course. That’s not the case when I cook for myself! I had some leftover of the sherry vinegar reduction that I made from Thanksgiving and it has kept well in the fridge!!

Even though this recipe serves two, I finished it all by myself.

Merry Christmas!

Serves 2.

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[100% organic]

For the Brine

  • ¼ cup salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 TBS whole black peppercorns
  • 4 quails

Bring everything (except for the quails) to a boil and cool down immediately. Submerge quails in this brine for at least 6 hours in the fridge.

For the Polenta

  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 TBS butter
  • Whole milk, as needed
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a pot, bring 2 cups of water to a rolling boil. Pour in cornmeal in a steady stream and whisk vigorously. Keep on whisking until cornmeal begins to thicken. Turn heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, remember to whisk every few minutes to prevent sticking. Once polenta is almost done, mix in butter, season with salt and pepper. Add whole milk to desired consistency. Keep warm.

For the Zucchini

  • 2 zucchinis
  • Chive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Toss chopped zucchinis in chive oil, salt, and black pepper. In a preheated 425°F oven, roast vegetables for 15 minutes. Keep warm.

For the Quinoa

  • ½ cup red quinoa
  • ½ cup white quinoa
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt

I cooked everything in my rice cooker. If you have one, use it.

If not, bring the chicken broth to a boil, add in quinoa, aromatics, and salt. Then return to a boil and turn on low, covered, for 20 minutes, or until add broth has been absorbed. Fluff with fork and keep warm.

For the Montegrato Pedro Ximénez Reduction.

TO ASSEMBLE

Remove quail from brine and pat dry. Lightly season with salt and pepper on a wire rack. Sear quail skin-side down in either neutral cooking oil or butter. Sear for 2 minutes and then flip over for another minute. Allow quail to rest before cutting.

Duck Breast with Hakurei Turnip, Farro & Tart Cranberry Jus

This was the sixth course, and the last savory course, to my 7-course Friendsgiving party for 8 people.

I always struggle with the last savory course but I decided to keep it simple this time and it worked out to my advantage.

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Serves 8.

For the Duck Stock

  • 4 Peking ducks
  • Duck bones from the duck
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • 4 onions, chopped roughly
  • 4 large carrots, chopped roughly
  • 8 celery stalks, chopped roughly
  • 2 garlic heads, cut in half horizontally
  • 8 qts chicken stock
  • Loose bouquet garni
  • Mushroom trims, if available
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Butcher and quarter the duck. Manchonner the legs and score the breasts. Cut away and reserve as much fat as possible. Breakdown the carcass. Place legs and scored breasts into the fridge.

In a large pan, sauté bones until golden brown; add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Continue sautéing on medium heat. Transfer browned bones and sautéed vegetables into a large stock pot. Add in chicken stock, bouquet garni, and mushroom trims and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, turn heat to a low simmer and reduce until there is one quart of liquid left.

Strain duck stock for making the cherry jus.

For the Cranberry Jus

  • 3 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, sliced thinly
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 bottle fortified red wine, such as Port, Marsala, or Madeira
  • Reserved duck stock
  • 1 cup tart cranberries, plus some for garnish
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Butter, as needed

In a pan, sweat shallots, onions, and leeks in some butter. Then sauté carrots until golden brown. Add in fortified wine, raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to moderately high and simmer vigorously, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced by ⅔. Add reserved duck stock, cherries, and cinnamon stick then raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high, and simmer until mixture is thick enough to lightly coat back of spoon, around 45 minutes. Pour through fine-mesh strainer into small, clean saucepan. Cover and keep warm.

For the Farro

  • 2 cups farro
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Salt

Combine the farro, salt, and chicken stock in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, about 20-40 minutes. Taste often as it is cooking, you want it to be toothsome and retain some structure. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquid, and set aside. Reserve liquid for reheating.

For the Turnips

  • 1 lb Hakurei turnips
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Sauté turnips until golden, set aside and keep warm.

TO ASSEMBLE

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Season duck breasts with salt & pepper, turn heat to low and place a large pan on the stove. Place breast in the pan with skin-side down. Render the fat to all the breasts slowly. Every 5 minutes, pour away rendered fat. After 20-30 minutes, turn breast around and cook flesh side for 3 seconds and remove from pan and place on a wire rack, skin-side up, to rest.

Flash heat the duck breasts in the hot oven for 1-2 minutes. Take it out and let it rest for a minute before you start slicing. Plate to your liking or in picture.

  1. Farro
  2. Turnips
  3. Duck Breast
  4. Cherry Jus

Roasted Spiced Duck Leg & Thigh with Butternut Squash Purée

This was the fifth course to my 7-course Friendsgiving party for 8 people.

I usually serve the legs and breast of the duck together in one composed dish but this time I decided to separate them into two separate courses!

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Serves 8.

For the Marinade

  • 2 bottles red wine
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ cup rosemary, chopped
  • 8 crushed juniper berries
  • 8 star anise
  • 4 bay leaves, crushed
  • 8 duck legs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, combine all spices.

Wash and pat dry the skin of the duck leg with a kitchen towel. Using a cake tester or fork, prick tiny holes all over the skin. Rub spice mixture onto skin side of each leg.

Pour the wine into a large mixing bowl and add the legs and stir. Cover with plastic wrap, put in the fridge, and leave to marinate for 3-4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Remove the legs from the marinade. Pat dry with paper towels to clean off spices. Place on a wire rack on a roasting tray and cook in the middle of the oven for 1 hour or so, depending on the size of the duck legs, basting frequently with pan juices.

For the Purée

  • 1 lb butternut squash, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced into 8-wedges
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 star anise
  • ½ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed
  • 150 mL/5 oz. cream
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper

Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, stir in cinnamon stick, anise, cardamom seeds, cover, and set aside for at least 1 hour.

Place the butternut squash and onion in a large bowl. Add 1 TBS of oil and toss well to coat. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tossed squash and onion on it. Roast until the vegetables are fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove the squash and onion from the oven and place into a blender. Strain the cream mixture through a chinois over a small bowl. Pour the strained cream into blender, add 1 TBS of lemon juice, season with salt, black pepper, and paprika. Blend until smooth.

TO ASSEMBLE

Remove the duck legs from the oven, cover with foil, and rest for 10 minutes.

Spoon the purée into the center of warmed plates and top with the roasted duck legs. Drizzle with pan juices and serve.

Roasted Beets with Mascarpone, Apple Salad & Chive Oil

This was the fourth course to my 7-course Friendsgiving party for 8 people.

Originally, I had planned this course near the beginning but since there are a lot of protein courses following each other, I changed the course and decided to use this salad as a palate cleanser. I wanted to update this dish. I don’t like the white goat cheese that comes in logs… Like, I really do not like it. So I opted for mascarpone instead.

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Serves 6-8.

For the Beets

  • 7 large red beets
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 TBS EVOO

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with foil and generously salt the bottom layer. Place the beets on top of the salt layer. Season well and add 2 TBS of olive oil. Wrap up the beets and place them in the hot oven for 45-60 minutes, until done.

Remove the beets, set aside to cool, then peel them. Cut them into small squares when cool. Save scraps for beet purée.

For the Chive Oil

  • 1 large bundle of chives, 1-inch in diameter
  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Blanch chives then squeezing excess water out, place in blender. Blend until it’s a purée then on a low speed, add in the oil and season. Strain through a mesh chinois before placing it into a squeeze bottle.

For the Apple Salad & Finish

  • 6 oz. mascarpone
  • 3 tart apples
  • 2 lemons, suprêmed
  • Chive oil, as needed
  • 2 cups pea leaves
  • Beet scraps, for purée
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Salt

Bring mascarpone to room temperature.

Purée beet scraps, season with salt, then set aside.

Suprême the lemons and chop roughly. Peel the apples and dice into small squares. Toss with chopped lemon segments with chive oil and salt.

Using a wooden spoon, press and mix mascarpone until it is soft. Then toss in cubed beets and pine nuts. Adjust taste with salt and pepper.

TO ASSEMBLE

Spoon beet purée onto plate. Using a ring mold, put beets 75% of the way up the ring mold. Top with apple salad then carefully remove ring mold.

In a separate bowl, toss pea leaves with chive oil and salt. Carefully place a small portion of the pea leaves over each mold. Drizzle with chive oil and serve.

Roasted Quail, Crushed Peewee Potatoes, Mushrooms with Montegrato Pedro Ximénez Reduction

This was the third course to my 7-course Friendsgiving party for 8 people.

These little birds are so tiny! Two birds per person was a good idea this year!

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Serves 8.

For the Brine

  • ½ cup salt
  • 8 cups water or 2.5 bottles white wine
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 8 quails

Bring everything to a boil and cool down immediately. Using a cake tester or sharp paring knife, stab quails, then submerge quails in this brine for 6 hours in the fridge.

For the Peewee Potatoes

  • 1 bag of Peewee potatoes
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 garlic head
  • 2 TBS whole black peppercorns
  • Salt

In cheesecloth, wrap bouquet garni with twine and in cold, salted water, boil potatoes and simmer until potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Cool down in its cooking water then drain and set aside.

For the Sherry Reduction

  • 1 bottle of Montegrato Pedro Ximénez vinegar
  • 2 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 TBS fresh rosemary, minced
  • Part of a orange rind

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the sherry vinegar and aromatics. Bring to a light boil then turn down to keep at a low simmer.

Be careful not to burn it or over-reduce it. When it becomes nappant (coats a spoon), it will be thick enough. When reduced more, it will thicken up considerably once cooled. You can always gently reheat and add a little water, as needed.

For the Finish

  • 8 maitake mushroom packets
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

TO ASSEMBLE

Remove quail from brine and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper on a wire rack. Sear quail skin-side down in either neutral cooking oil or butter. Sear for 2 minutes and then flip over for another minute.

Sauté mushrooms in a hot pan and season with salt and pepper. Using your thumb, crush potatoes then add in same pan as mushrooms to warm them up.

Reheat balsamic reduction.

Spoon mushrooms and potatoes on warmed plates. Arrange cut quail on plates and then drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Kabocha Squash & Celeriac Bisque with Duck Fat Roasted Cashews

This was the second course to my 7-course Friendsgiving party for 8 people.

Every year around Thanksgiving time, the first thing that pops into my head is butternut squash soup but I’ve done so many variations of it that I don’t want to post yet another butternut soup on here. I felt that having a small liquid course was a nice way to open up a multi-course dinner without having an amuse or canapé. But then I got thinking that I don’t have any seafood dishes!!!! So that’s why the little scallop dish served as an opening appetizer.

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Serves 8.

For the Soup

  • One 2-3 lbs kabocha squash
  • 1 large celery root bulb
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • ½ cup cream
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F. Peel and remove seeds to squash and cut into 1-inch pieces. Peel celeriac and cut into 1-inch pieces. Toss squash and celeriac with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread in an even layer on a sheet pan. Bake in preheated oven until the vegetables are light brown and tender, approximately 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the vegetables are in the oven, in a large pot over low heat, sweat shallots, then add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the roasted vegetables and cinnamon. Stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken stock, apple cider, and thyme, then bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Add additional stock if needed, then add the cream and continue blending. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm for service.

For the Nuts & Garnish

  • 1 tart apple
  • Lemon, to rub on apple
  • 2 tsp duck fat, melted
  • ½ cup cashews
  • Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss the nuts with duck fat and some salt. Spread onto a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nuts just begin to golden.

Peel, core, and dice a tart apple. Rub some lemon on apples to delay oxidation.

TO ASSEMBLE

In warmed soup bowls, ladle hot soup into the bowl. Garnish with apple dice and cashews. Or you may pour soup table-side.