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.

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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.

Risotto with Shrimp & Sea Beans

This was the third course to my 5-course Friendsgiving party for 6 people.

I absolutely LOVED this course because it was shrimp overload!

Serves 6.

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[100% organic]

For the Shrimp Stock

  • 2 lbs large Mayan shrimp/prawns, heads removed and shelled
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 TBS brandy
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 1 garlic head, cut horizontally
  • 2 tarragon sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 TBS black peppercorns
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 7 oz. diced tomatoes
  • Canola oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Peel shrimp and leave the tails intact. Place shrimp aside in the refrigerator.

In a Dutch oven or very large pot, heat canola oil until smoking hot. Add in shrimp heads and shells and develop a deep orange color, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Then sauté mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) until there is some color. Add in tomato paste and cook it thoroughly. Flambé with brandy then deglaze with white wine.

Add in diced tomatoes, garlic head, tarragon, bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme, along with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil then simmer for 1 hour. Strain and discard solids.

Reheat stock for risotto making.

For the Risotto

  • 2 onions, finely diced
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1½ cup Arborio rice
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • Shrimp stock from above, as needed
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup sea beans, lightly packed

In a pan on medium-low heat, heat the olive oil. Sweat the onions until translucent. Stir in the rice and make sure the oil fully coats the rice. Cook until the ends of the rice are transparent, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Then add in the wine and cook until completely absorbed and the alcohol has evaporated.

Add 1 cup of the hot stock mixture and simmer, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the bottom of the pan is almost dry. Adding ½ cup stock at a time, stir until almost all the liquid has been absorbed between each addition. Be careful not to let the bottom of the pan dry out. Continue to stir often, and repeat until the rice is almost al dente. 

Stir in sea beans and keep warm before serving.

For the Finish

  • Reserved shrimp
  • Salt
  • Canola oil
  • 1 handful sea beans
  • Tempura batter

In a large pan, sear shrimp with canola and salt. Keep warm and set aside.

Dip sea beans in tempura batter and fry lightly in a pot of oil.

TO ASSEMBLE

Spoon risotto in a bowl, place shrimp in center and top with tempura sea beans.

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Citrus Marinaded Quail with Parsnip Purée, Arugula, Pea Leaves Salad, and Satsuma

This was the second course to my 5-course Friendsgiving party for 6 people.

I’m really happy the way this dish turned out. It’s EXACTLY how I pictured it!

Serves 6.

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[100% organic]

For the Citrus Marinade

  • 6 semi-boneless butterflied quail
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1 TBS sesame oil
  • 3 TBS EVOO
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 3 TBS soy sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1-inch ginger roots, peeled and finely minced
  • Pinch of salt

In a large bowl, mix together all marinading ingredients and add quail. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

For the Parsnip Purée

  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup butter
  • EVOO, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Place parsnips along with thyme and bay leaf in a tray and season with EVOO, salt, and pepper. Cover with foil and roast for 40 minutes.

Remove parnips from tray and place in a bowl along with cream and butter. Smash with a fork and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasoning.

Keep warm before serving.

For the Quail

  • Marinaded quail
  • Leftover marinade, for basting
  • Canola oil
  • Salt and freshly grounded pepper

Remove quail from bowl and reserve mixture for basting.

In a hot pan, add canola oil and sear quail breast-side down on high heat. Turn heat to medium and be sure to press down. Flip quail after 5 minutes while basting continuously. Cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes and remove from pan. Rest quail before slicing.

For the Salad

  • 4 satsuma mandarins, peeled
  • 6 cups arugula
  • 6 cups pea leaves
  • Citrus Vinaigrette or other simple dressings (such as EVOO + lemon juice)
  • Salt

Peel satsumas, simply dress the greens before plating.

TO ASSEMBLE

Slice quail into 2 sections: wing & breast and leg. Spoon parsnip purée onto plate, place salad greens nicely and arrange quail along the plate.

Lemon Saffron Risotto with Mussels

This is a very much long over due post! Wow, this month flew by! I’m not really surprised though because July always goes by so fast for me since it’s my birth month and it’s a constant reminder that I am at the third week of my new age…

I thought work would die down but it hasn’t and I am constantly so very tired and stressed. Not having my usual two consecutive days off contribute to my being tired all the time; my days off are split. I miss my Sunday food parties… I haven’t had the time nor energy to hold house parties since May!! But I insisted to myself that I post something for July because August is right around the corner… and not updating my blog is not an option!

The lightness of the lemon flavoring definitely balanced out the heaviness of the saffron!

Serves 4.

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[100% organic, wild mussels from Canada]

For the Mussels

  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely minced
  • 1 garlic head, cut in half horizontally
  • Parsley stems
  • 1 TBS black whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Pinch of salt

Clean, scrub, and soak mussels in salted cold water for 15 minutes. De-beard mussels.

In a pan on medium low heat, melt butter with olive oil. Sweat shallots with a pinch of salt. Turn up the heat to medium and add in aromatics (garlic, parsley stems, peppercorns, bay leaf) and sweat for 1 minute. Turn heat to high and add in mussels. Cover the pan with a lid and shake the pan over the heat vigorously. Add in white wine and simmer until mussels open up, 3-4 minutes. Mussels will be halfway cooked. You will finish cooking the mussels in the risotto.

Strain the mussel liquor and set aside. Remove each mussel from its shell and set aside, either over ice or in the refrigerator. Discard shells, unless you want to plate mussels in their shells.

For the Risotto

  • 3 TBS butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • Reserved mussel liquor
  • Large pinch of saffron
  • 2 qts vegetable stock
  • 4 lemons, juiced and zested
  • 1 cup packed parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • Reserved mussels
  • Salt
  • (Optional: grated Pecorino Romano)

Heat up vegetable stock in a saucepan and keep hot.

In a pan, melt the butter on a low heat. Add in the diced onion and sweat until soft. Stir in the rice and make sure the butter fully coats each grain of rice and cook until the ends of the rice are transparent, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Then add in the mussel liquor and saffron, and cook until completely absorbed.

Add 1 cup of the hot broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed, and the bottom of the pan is almost dry. Adding 1 cup broth at a time, stir until almost all the liquid has been absorbed between each addition. Be careful not to let the bottom of the pan dry out. Continue to stir often, and repeat until the rice is short of al dente, about 15-20 minutes.

Before the last addition of stock, fold in reserved mussels, lemon juice, lemon zest, and half of the chopped parsley.

Season and taste to adjust seasoning. I like to fold in finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese into my risottos so I rarely have to season with any salt since the cheese is very salty.

Scoop risotto into bowls and top with more chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

Beet Frisée Watercress Salad with Orange Suprêmes & Candied Zest

This was the first course to my 6-course New Year’s Day Dinner party for 8 people.

I have adapted Oceana‘s beet salad. I was very happy with this dish and at the same time, I found out that burnt candied orange zest goes so well as a garnish for a cocktail drink – Red Lion (Gin, Cointreau, orange juice, lemon juice, Grenadine).

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For the Beets & Purée

  • 8 large red beets
  • 1 garlic head, cut horizontally
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 TBS whole black peppercorns
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove beet greens and wash beets well. In a deep baking dish, place all ingredients in and a light sprinkle of salt. Bake until tender.

Peel beets while warm and cut each beet into 6 pieces. Save scraps for purée. Serving size per person is 5 beet pieces. Choose the nicest pieces for serving and reserve all other pieces for the purée. In a blender, purée all scraps and ugly pieces. You may have to add a few tablespoons of water. Season purée with salt, to taste. Set both purée and beet pieces aside.

For the Salad

  • 2 watercress bunches, picked
  • 1 frisée head, white and light green parts only

Pick and wash watercress and frisée. Set aside.

For the Suprêmes & Vinaigrette

  • 4 navel oranges, zested, suprêmed, juices reserved
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • EVOO
  • Salt, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste

4 navel orange suprêmes was divided exactly for 8 people’s salads. You may want to increase the number of oranges if you’re unfamiliar with suprêming.

Zest two of the oranges with a peeler. Julienne the zest and set aside.

Suprême each orange and reserve juices for vinaigrette. Set suprêmes aside. After suprêming each orange, squeeze the core to get more juice. Strain juice before making vinaigrette.

Ratio: 1 part vinegar :: 2 parts juice :: 3 parts EVOO. Using an immersion blender, blend vinegar, juice, EVOO, and lemon juice. Season with salt and white pepper, to taste. Before dressing, blend again.

For the Candied Zest

  • Orange zest from above
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Water

Boil the zest three times, in cold water each time, for 5 minutes each time, changing the water each time.

In a shallow pot, add lemon juice, sugar, and enough water to cover orange zest and on low heat, cook until water has evaporated and mixture is bubbly. Be very careful not to burn because when you remove from the heat, the pot will continue to cook and sugar caramelizes fast.

When zest is still warm, remove each julienned zest from pot and place on parchment paper.

TO ASSEMBLE

Using a large spoon, spoon a good amount of beet purée on a chilled plate and slide the spoon through it so it creates a streak. Place 5 beet pieces on top of the streak, facing the same direction. Place 5 orange suprêmes beside each beet piece. In a large mixing bowl, dress watercress and frisée. Carefully place greens on top of beets. Place 5 candied zest pieces on top of salad, then serve.

Duck with Blueberry Sage Sauce & Potato Herb Salad

This was the main/third course to my 2012 Thanksgiving dinner.

I love duck so much! I would make this everyday if making the sauce didn’t take me forever!!!! Oh, and this sauce was UHHHH-MAZING!!!!! OMG! I could drink the sauce!!!

[100% organic]

For the Duck

  • 2 Peking ducklings
  • Duck bones from the duck
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • 1 large onion, chopped roughly
  • 3 large carrots, chopped roughly
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped roughly
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 16 cups chicken stock
  • Bouquet garni – 2 bay leaves, 6 thyme sprigs, 2 TBS whole black peppercorns, bunch of parsley stems
  • Mushroom trims, if available
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F and brown bones. Once bones are done, set temperature to 400°F. Put bones into a deep oven-proof tray.

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

In a pan, sauté onions, carrots, celery, and mushroom trims. Remove once somewhat caramelized and place in deep tray, around the bones. In a saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil.

In a separate pan, heat some oil. Season duck legs with salt and pepper, then sear in hot pan, to develop some color. Turn heat for duck legs down to medium and let it render out some fat. You only need to sear and cook the skin-side of the duck legs. The skin of the duck legs should be a golden brown color before going onto the next step.

Transfer legs, skin side up, on top of bones and vegetables in the deep tray. Add enough hot chicken stock to cover duck three-quarters of the way up. Add the bouquet garni, garlic, cover with lid or aluminum foil and braise the legs until tender, about an hour. Make sure the stock is bubbling/boiling before you put it into the oven.

When legs are done, remove from oven and let it cook slightly. Strain braising liquid and reserve for the sauce. Reserve duck legs in some remaining braising liquid and keep warm.

For the Sauce

  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 cups Shiraz
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 8 cups duck braising liquid, hot
  • 1 cup sage leaves, more for garnish
  • Bouquet garni – 1 bay leaf, 3 thyme sprigs, 1 TBS whole black peppercorns, bunch of parsley stems
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • Salt & pepper

Caramelize the honey. When the honey is bubbling and golden, add the Shiraz to it. Add in chopped shallots and crushed garlic. Reduce until syrupy then add in the hot duck braising liquid. Add a loose bouquet garni and 1 cup of sage, and reduce by two-thirds. Strain through a fine sieve. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Continue to reduce, on low-medium heat, until there is some body to the sauce. Add the fresh blueberries and cook until berries are soft and release their juices. If sauce is not thickening, add some beurre manié. Keep warm until ready to serve.

For the Potato Herb Salad

  • 1 lb mixed colored Pee Wee potatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • ½ cup parsley leaves
  • 20 chives, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 head frisée, only white and light green parts
  • ½ cup shallots, finely minced
  • EVOO
  • Salt & pepper

Boil potatoes in cold water and add bay leaf and thyme. Cook until tender. Let potatoes cool in its cooking liquid. Cut potatoes in half or thin rounds, then set aside.

Frisée and herbs should be washed before cutting. Before serving, frisée should be kept in ice water and chives & parsley should be covered with a damp paper towel.

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.

For the braised legs, cut along the joint to separate leg and thigh. Only add a little braising liquid to the pan and have legs and thighs skin-side up. Place on low heat and once braising liquid starts to bubble and reduce, spoon the liquid over all the legs every 5 minutes. When the legs have reached a nice glaze color to them, keep warm and set aside.

In a salad spinner, dry the frisée leaves. In a pan, sweat the shallots in some olive oil then add cut potatoes. Once warm, remove from heat. Add frisée and herbs to potatoes. Season with salt & pepper, and EVOO.

Flash heat the duck breasts in the hot oven for 5 minutes. Take it out and let it rest for a minute before you start slicing. One portion includes: half a breast, either the leg or thigh, warm salad, and sauce. Plate to your liking or in picture (above).