There is one thing that I really love during winter in the Netherlands and it is that fairly early in the year – around November – it is tradition to celebrate Saint Nicholas.
There is not a single family in Holland that does not in some way or another honor the Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten with a party, a small get-together or by going to somebody’s else’s house to celebrate. There may be many presents, or just a few, tables laden with traditional candles and cookies, or just a pot of hot chocolate. The house may be teeming with children, or with perhaps just a few grown-ups around the dining room table—but the Sinterklaas spirit is everywhere—one simply can’t miss it. It is far and away the nicest, most wonderful and exciting festivity in the land!
Naughty or nice. Coal or presents. I honestly have been a lucky girl this year as Sinterklaas brought me an impressive Japanese cutlery set. Since then I had been patiently waiting to get off my Winter cold to finally get back in the kitchen and make use of my new babies… I had time to think about what would be the best way to test the knives and came to the conclusion that deboning a quail would be the perfect challenge. Knowing that I had never deboned a quail on my own before I look online for tips and found Matt Moran’s Pan-fried quail served with gnocchi and roast pumpkin. I usually always look for inspiration and create my own recipe but honestly I couldn’t think about one thing that would improve this recipe as it is a true delicious dish.
To me it’s all you can expect from such a fine dish, the meat of the bird becomes really tasty with all that nice caramelisation but most and foremost from the lovely butter sage sauce. The Pumpkin is tender and sweet while the gnocchi are like super soft velvety pillow of potatoes. Heaven to me… but apparently not for Dennis (see below column) ; ).
Pan fried quail with gnocchi and roast pumpkin
Cooking time: 30/40min
-1 butternut pumpkin
– 750g royal blue potatoes, roasted
– 75g plain flour
– 1 egg yolk
– salt and pepper
– extra virgin olive oil for tossing
– 2 large quail
– 30ml vegetable oil
– 30g salted butter, diced
– 20ml olive oil
– 10g pecorino, grated
– 20g unsalted butter
– bunch sage leaves
– chervil, to garnish
Peel and de-seed the butternut pumpkin and then dice into 1cm cubes. Blanch in salted, boiling water for approximately 3 minutes, refresh in ice water and then drain.
To prepare the gnocchi, scrape out the inside of the potatoes. Mash the potato and then pass through a sieve. Combine the flour, egg and salt with the potato and work into dough. Roll the dough in a sausage shape (approximately 2cm in diameter). Cut the dough into 2cm wide discs. Add the gnocchi to salted, boiling water. Cook until the gnocchi rises to the surface and then scoop out and refresh in iced water. Drain the gnocchi and then toss with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil.
To prepare the quail, trim winglets at the second joint. Using a boning knife, slice along the top of the neck; carefully fold back the neck skin, without tearing it, to reveal the top of the breast meat. Slice around the ‘wishbone’ and remove it. Insert a cook’s knife in the tail-end of the quail up to the neck and carefully cut along both sides of the back bone. Trim off the excess neck skin. Using the boning knife, carefully cut between the rib cage and breast meat, leaving the breast fillets, winglets and legs intact. Trim any excess fat and skin.
Season the quail with salt and pepper. Heat the 20ml olive oil in a fry pan and when hot add the quail skin side down. Cook on a medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes until golden brown then turn over. Add in the butter then when it begins to turn to a nutty brown baste the quail for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the quail from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving. (Please note: quail should be served pink).
Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and then add in the pumpkin and seasoning. Cook until the pumpkin is caramelised and then remove. In the same pan, add in the gnocchi and caramelise until golden. Season to taste. Stir in diced butter until it starts to turn into a nutty brown colour. Add in the sage and remove from the heat.
To serve, cut the quail in half and arrange on a plate with the gnocchi and pumpkin. Drizzle over the nutty butter and then garnish with the sage leaves, freshly grated pecorino and chervil.
I recommend to pair this dish with a white Australian Chardonnay – I chose a Chardonnay Nottage Hill which is a full-bodied dry white wine that shows rich fruit flavours but also a subtle oak character that really compliment the fine flavour of the quail.
The Dutch boyfriend’s opinion:
The dish looked very pretty and I’m sure this is what you can order in a good quality restaurant. Flavor wise I was a little disappointed. The quail did not have as much flavor as I expected. The caramelised quail skin was delicious though. I have to say I also expected more literally, since I was still hungry afterward. The gnocchi where actually just potatoes, which were nice with the sauce Raphaelle made. The pumpkin didn’t add anything to the dish for me. Again I think this is a good example of a too refined dish for my taste. Serve it as a part of a two or three course meal and it would work better than a standalone meal.