Friday, November 21, 2008

Smothered Quail, et al.

This is the next in the series of recipes from my Low Country Cooking Class last week. Smothered Quail is really just quail that has been browned on all sides and then cooked in a gravy; my family would call this Fried Quail (for whatever reason). This method of cooking is technically a quick braise (though without a lid on the pan) and is my favorite way of cooking rabbit and pork chops.

You might recognize this as the country cousin to an étouffée, from the French verb to smother. A Cajun étouffée is very similar in technique, but the roux is going to be darker and the dish will contain trinity (onions, peppers, and celery) and a lot more seasoning. Once you get comfortable with the technique, try an étouffée.

The method could not be simpler. Season a cup of flour with salt and pepper (sure, add cayenne and dried thyme if you like; you're the cook). Dredge the quail in the flour and then brown on all sides in a large skillet over moderate heat. Be careful not to let the brown bits in the pan burn.

Remove the quail from the pan and add 1/2 cup of the seasoned flour to the pan. You might need to add a little more oil at this point to make a good roux. Once the roux is mixed up well, this would be a good point to add any other flavorings that you might want. For my class, I added a couple of diced Surry sausages. I generally would have added sliced onions too, but for some reason I didn't last Sunday. No matter. Cook the roux until it is light brown, then add as much water as you need to make a nice gravy. Start with a couple of cups and add more as necessary.

Add the quail (rabbit, pork chops, Salisbury steaks, beef paleron steaks, chicken, whatever) to the pan and cook gently until it's tender enough to pierce easily with a fork. When done, season to taste with salt (remember, your roux flour was already seasoned) and pepper. I threw in a good portion of crushed red pepper and a couple teaspoons of fresh thyme too.

I can't eat anything cooked in gravy like this without rice and a big pile of greens.

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