Quail, lemon, thyme, garlic, and duck fat
Oh duck fat… I’ve seen it called liquid gold–it has the magical ability to make pretty much everything a little more delicious than if you used butter or oil. Today, I had the pleasure of filling an entire saucepan with duck fat, cooking a few small birds in it, and subsequently eating them. Suffice to say, I had a pretty good day!
The recipe started with brining the quails in salt, sugar, peppercorns and basil. We really had fun with this picture–after some trial and error with different containers, we ended up going for a scientific specimen jar look.
Next up, we prepared a mirepoix that contained onion, carrots and leeks.
With most of the prep done, I turned my attention to the duck fat. The tubs o’ duck fat were slowly melted in a saucepan.
The mirepoix was added to the saucepan of duck fat (which I found interesting) and the mixture left to simmer on low heat for a while. The vegetables turned a really nice golden brown and added flavour to the duck fat. The addition of the mirepoix also formed a cushion at the base of the saucepan to keep the quails from scorching the bottom.
The quails themselves were taken out of the brining liquid, patted dry, and stuffed with some lemon and thyme before being plunged into a golden bath of duck fat.
As this cooking process was new to me, it was very fun to experience for the first time. The heat was set at a temperature in order to keep the fat at a low simmer and after the initial (and expected) spatter phase of cooking, the quail simmered gently.
When cooking was done, the quail were taken out of their bath, and patted dry to remove excess fat. The first thing I noticed was that the skin was completely rendered. My second observation was that the meat was surprisingly dry and stringy. This probably had more to do with the vendor at the farmer’s market having frozen the quail than with the actual cooking method. The meat tasted delicious–the flavour of thyme and lemon really shone through and it was not even remotely too oily or fatty.
All in all, I really enjoyed cooking this dish! It seems like this cooking technique is something that would be worth my time to practice and perfect, because honestly, everything tastes better when submerged in duck fat!