Quail Starter with Kale Served on a Crispy Polenta Cake
The quail is really easy to prepare and cook. You can sauté or bake quail but you will want to cook it while the polenta is in the oven so sauté it until it is done. When you can see the bare bone through the little drumsticks, it is ready. The meat should still be a little pink in the thickest part. The outside of the quail should be golden brown and crispy.
You can substitute other greens for the kale. Broccoli rabe, dandelion, escarole, or Swiss chard would all work. Make sure you remove any tough stems before you begin.
It is important to heat the pan or baking dish before you add the polenta mixture. This helps the polenta form a crusty bottom. If you prefer, you can divide the polenta between eight small custard cups or similar, rather than making one large polenta cake and cutting it into serving portions. The flavor will be the same so it just depends what kind of cookware you have and how you want to present this recipe.
- 8 quail
- 6 cups water
- 11 oz coarse or medium polenta
- 1 package mixed salad leaves, for garnish 1 oz shaved parmesan, for garnish
- Olive oil, as needed
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2 lbs kale, tough stems removed
- 4 finely chopped garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Put a metal-handled 12 inch skillet or baking dish in the oven to heat up.
- Whisk the polenta with the water in a pot over a moderate heat, bringing the mixture to a boil slowly.
- Keep whisking it, so lumps do not form.
- Turn the heat down to low and simmer the polenta uncovered, stirring a few times, for about 4 minutes or until smooth.
- Season with salt and pepper and pour into the skillet or baking dish.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until the polenta cake pulls away from the pan.
- Rinse the quail and pat dry.
- Arrange them breast-up on a cutting board and insert a knife into the cavity. Cut down the backbone and discard the wing tips.
- Pound the quail with the flat side of a meat mallet to flatten them a bit.
- Rub 2 teaspoons of oil over the quail and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and cook the quail, 4 at a time, skin-side down, for 7 minutes, or until golden.
- If you have 2 skillets, you can cook all 8 at the same time.
- Turn the birds over and cook the other side for 5 minutes or until you can see the leg bone through the drumstick.
- Boil the kale in salted water for 20 minutes or until very tender.
- Drain it through a colander or sieve, forcing out the excess moisture with the back of a wooden spoon.
- Chop the kale coarsely, then sauté it with the garlic and extra virgin olive oil for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the red pepper flakes, vinegar, and salt to taste.
- Slice the polenta cake into 8 wedges and put a wedge on each of 8 serving plates.
- Top the polenta with the kale and top that with a quail.
- Divide the salad leaves and shaved parmesan between the serving plates.
This photo shows you what the finished dish will look like and you can see how mouthwatering this is. The crispy-skinned quail sits on top of the garlic kale and then on the bottom you have a crispy polenta cake. You can see how the garlic oil drips from the kale, through the polenta cake, giving it plenty of moisture and flavor. This is a gourmet recipe which dinner guests will love. It also makes a nice family dinner if you want to serve something a little unusual.
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