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A native of Bribane Australia, chef Drew Nocente of Salted & Hung has a love for all meats grilled or cured.

At his restaurant on Purvis Street, he easily jazzes up a platter of housemade charcuterie with items such as beer and seaweed salami, coppa, kangaroo loin or oxtail rillettes.

Back home in Australia, Christmas meals are typically made of huge slabs of roast beef and prawns and crabs his brother-in-law might have hauled in from a good day’s fishing. But if he was setting a Christmas bird on the table, a quail dish might be his choice. “It’s just something a little different. Not many will expect that at your dinner party, so you get to have a bit of fun with it. I draw half my inspiration from back home (Australia) and half from my training in London. In Europe around Christmas time, it is quite common to find quail dishes,” he says.

Plus, preparing a stuffed quail dish requires less preparation time overall than the proverbial turkey. He says, “Normally, turkey would need to be brined for two days, and air-dried a bit and really slow-roasted, whereas for a dish like this, you can do it at quite high temperatures and get a nice, crispy skin, so it’s a much faster cook. And if you pair it with something like a mash and mushrooms, it’s comfort food, perfect for Christmas when it’s all about family-time, sharing and homely meals. A nice mellow Pinot Noir or a young Shiraz would go nicely with the dish as well.”

Chef Drew Nocente

Chef Drew Nocente (Photo: Salted & Hung)

Stuffed quail, mash and roasted mushrooms
By chef Andrew Nocente, Salted & Hung
Serves 6
Medium

6 quails

For the marinade
300ml pomace oil
20g juniper berries
1 sprig thyme
10g black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

For the stuffing
500g minced pork
30g unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
salt, a pinch
1 bay leaf
2 small sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 apple, peeled and cored and coarsely grated
10g parsley, chopped
6g sage, chopped
40g panko
Zest of a small lemon, finely grated

For the quail sauce
Quail bones
1 medium shallot, peeled and sliced
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
3-4 black and white peppercorns
15ml brandy
350ml red wine
2L veal stock (store-bought*)

1. Tunnel-bone each of the quails**. Cut off the neck. Make slits at the v-shaped wishbone located just below the neck. Using your fingers, remove the wishbone from the breast meat. Then, make two little slits, one at each wing, to separate the shoulder joints from the backbone. Using your fingers, slowly separate the skin and meat from the back bone, gradually turning the bird inside out like an inverted sock. When you get to the legs, break the legs away from the backbone, separating the hip joints. Continue separating the skin and meat from the backbone until you are able to remove the backbone and breast bone. Turn the bird back the right way out and set aside. Keep the bones for sauce.

2. Make the quail marinade. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Use it to marinate the quail overnight (an oil marinade keeps the meat moist and helps the skin crisp up in cooking).

3. Prepare the stuffing. Warm the butter in a small frying pan over a medium-heat. Sauté the onions with a pinch of salt, the bay leaf and thyme for around 10 mins, or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for a further min, and then cool.

4. Remove the bay leaf, and then mix the cooled onions with the rest of the ingredients and season well with salt and pepper. Fold the mixture in and combine well.

5. Make the sauce. Brown the bones and shallots until evenly coloured, about 3-4 mins. Add the shallots, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. De-glaze the pan with the brandy,add the red wine and reduce to a glace, about 5-6 mins. Add the veal stock. Reduce the sauce on low heat for about 1 hr until it reaches the right consistency (it should form a line on the plate when you draw it with the back of your spoon). Skim the scum from the surface.

6. Cook the stuffed quails. Pre-heat the oven at 240˚C. Quail by quail, fill cavity with stuffing, cross legs and tuck wings under the sides. Take the oil from the marinade and brush the surface of the quails.

7. Place the quails onto a baking tray lined with Bakewell non-stick baking paper breast-side up, then place in to the oven and cook for 12 mins. Remove from the oven, turn over (breast facing down) and allow to rest for 6 mins.

8. Serve with sides such as halved Swiss brown mushrooms and mash.

*Available from retailers such as Huber’s Butchery and Prestige Foods via honestbee.
**Alternatively, purchase deboned quails from retailers such as The French Grocer.

Related: Christmas Recipes: Capella Singapore’s Tandoori-Flavoured Turkey; Christmas Recipes: Summerhill’s Roast Chicken, Pears, Grapes and Sage.

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Look out for the rest of our birdy recipes leading up to Christmas!

More recipe videos can be found here, and follow #wndchristmas on Instagram for all things Christmas this festive season!

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