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Roasted Quail with Spinach Pecan Rice Dressing Recipes

Background/History
This year we all drove up to Missouri to spend Thanksgiving week. We prepared a large and wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 people.  It was a really great time.

Earlier this fall I caught a stroke of genius to make stuffed quail.  I had never cooked quail before but was interested in doing a unique dish for Thanksgiving inspired by the traditional Thanksgiving fare.

The dish I ended up making was roasted quail stuffed with pecan, spinach and sausage rice served with a satsuma and sage sauce and a dollop of cranberry cherry relish on the side.  Unfortunately, I did not catch an individual photo of my dish but here’s how all 8 looked after coming out of the oven and being sauced.


Sourcing Ingredients

I was looking to make this dish as Louisiana-sourced as possible.  When looking at my ingredients list I realized that I could get four of the main ingredients fairly easily:  quail, pecans, sausage and satsuma.  Let’s inspect them one by one!

I ordered my quail from Rare Cuts.  I don’t buy meat that often but when I do Rare Cuts is where I shop. The staff is friendly and most importantly very knowledgeable and helpful. Check out their selection if you haven’t already.  The quail came from Plaquemine, LA from a little farm call T & L Quail Farm. I would link to their site except that I cannot find them on the web.  Anyhow, I bought the quail semi-boneless.  This means that the bones were removed from the body cavity but the bones in the wings and legs remained intact.  If you’re going to cook quail, I highly recommend that you spend the extra money and order them this way.  Otherwise, they are much more difficult to eat and prepare.  Semi-boneless quail are divine!

The satsumas and pecans were sourced from a small road side stand called Cap’s Produce on Highway 90 near Mathews, LA just before you hit the Bayou Lafourche exits, when coming from NOLA.  It was a lovely little stand that had a great assortment of produce, nuts and most importantly, BEEF JERKY!  Some of the most wonderful beef jerky I have ever had – Bourgeois Jerky – produced in Thibodaux, LA.   Anyhow, I digress.  The satsumas were fresh and juicy.  The pecans were large and lovely.  We purchased a large sleeve of paper shell pecans, already cracked but still in shell, for $18.  That’s a steal.  Jeremy was very kind and shelled all of them for us.  In the end we got over 4 cups of large beautiful pecans.

The sausage was sourced from Poche’s Market in Breaux Bridge.  I chose chaurice sausage for its spicy and powerful flavor characteristics.  We used smoked chaurice and it’s made with lean pork meat, seasonings, crushed garlic, vinegar, jalapeño peppers, and chives stuffed into natural hog casings.  By far, it is my top choice in smoked sausage.  Jeremy and I stop in Breaux Bridge any time we pass by on I-10.  It’s always a wonderful treat. Try the cracklins!!!

Ha, thinking now, I could have definitely sourced the rice from Louisiana as well.  In the end we used Mahatma Jasmine Rice.  All in all it was a great choice.  Jasmine rice is very light and fragrant and not sticky at all.  It worked out perfectly for its intended use.

Recipes

This one dish is a combination of three different recipes.  In the end all three are combined to produce a fourth and final dish.  Let’s look at the recipes one by one so you can see how we got to our finished product.

Spinach Pecan & Sausage Rice Dressing
Recipe adapted from Chef John Folse’s “The Evolution of Creole & Cajun Cuisine”
Yield: 9 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 c olive oil
1/2 c diced pecans
1/2 c chaurice, medium diced
1/4 c onions, diced
1/4 c celery, diced
1 T garlic, chopped
1 cup frozen spinach, drained and squeezed dry
1/4 c green onions, sliced
2 T fresh sage, rough chopped
6 c rice, cooked
salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. In a heavy bottom medium sized pot, heat olive oil and add the pecans, chaurice and a little salt – saute 2-3 minutes or until sausage is rendered
  2. Next add onions, celery, garlic and a pinch more of salt – continue to saute for  3-5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted
  3. Add in the spinach, sage and green onions and mix well
  4. Immediately add in the cooked rice and mix well – adjust seasonings to taste and then remove from heat
  5. Tips:
    1. Rice mixture needs to be cooled before stuffing into quail
    2. This can be made a couple days ahead of time if needed
    3. Also, this recipe makes more than you will need to stuff the quail.  Enjoy the remaining dressing as a stand-alone meal. It’s very tasty!

Satsuma and Sage Sauce
Recipe adapted from a random recipe I found on the web

Yield:  1 cup

Ingredients:
5 satsumas, juiced and zested
1 stick of butter
5 sage leaves, rough chopped
salt and cayenne pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the satsuma juice & zest over medium heat – while satsuma juice is heating add in the stick of butter and the sage leaves; lightly salt and pepper sauce
  2. Allow sauce to simmer lightly for 10 minutes then remove from heat
  3. Tips:
    1. If not using immediately, let it cool before sticking in the fridge
    2. However, it is recommended that you make this right before placing the quail in the oven – that’s how I did it and it came out great
    3. Only use satsuma zest if the satsumas are very nice and bright orange on the outside.

Cranberry & Cherry Relish
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living’s Website

Yield:  3 cups 

Ingredients:
1 package (12 oz) fresh cranberries
1 c dried cherries
1 c sugar
1 c fresh satsuma juice

Method:

  1. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients
  2. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer; Simmer until most berries have burst and liquid is syrupy, 20 to 25 minutes
  3. Transfer to a bowl – cover, pressing plastic wrap directly on surface of relish; refrigerate if not using immediately
  4. Tips
    1. This can be made up to a week in advance
    2. The cherries really help cut the bitterness of the cranberries

Preparing the Quail
In order to get the best flavor out of the quail, I soaked them in a brine solution for an hour before starting my real preparation of them.  Place quail in a bowl of salty water – use 1/4 c salt to 1 quart water.  Place back in the fridge while brining.  After brining, remove quail from water and pat dry.  Return them to the refrigerator if not using immediately.

Assembling the Quail
Once all the accompanying recipes are complete and ready to work with, it’s now time to move on to the main fun – assembling the quail.  I used a large roasting pan lined with aluminum foil for roasting the quail.  If you’re not using non-stick aluminum foil, add a light layer of non-stick spray to the foil. This worked out well for me.  At this point, pre-heat the oven to 350 F.

Pull the quail out of the fridge and apply just a little salt and black pepper to the birds.  This gave them a good first layer of seasoning.  Stuffing the quail with the spinach pecan rice mixture was not exactly neat but was rather easy.  The best thing to do is to sit the quail up and stuff from the top.  Otherwise, stuffing will just fall out of the back.  Stuff each quail with about 1/2 cup of rice or until the quail is nice and full looking.  As I stuffed each one, I placed it in the roasting dish breast side up.  After the quail were situated in the roasting pan, I rubbed each one with butter – under the skin and on top of the skin.  This helps brown the quail a bit better and adds more flavor and juiciness to the delightful birds.

Since the quail were so small the cooking time is very short.  Place the quail uncovered in the 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, crank the oven up to to 400 F and cook an additional 10 minutes.  At this point, since ovens vary, check the internal temperature of the quail.  They should be 160 F internal temperature.  If they are not at 160 F, cook longer in 5 minute intervals, checking the temperature as you go.  Once they reach 160 F, you’re done!

Pull the quail from the oven and immediately pour satsuma sauce over them – as much or as little sauce as you’d like.  The sauce will thicken a bit on standing.  Reserve some sauce for individual plates if you’d like.  Once the quail is dished out individually, garnish with a dollop of the cranberry / cherry relish.

Enjoy!!

Conclusion

All in all, this dish came out really well.  This is the first time that I really got this creative for Thanksgiving and it paid off.  While this is alot of prep work and does take some time to complete, it is well worth it.  Quality of ingredients also pays off as well.  Using locally sourced, top quality items lent well to the overall greatness of the final product.

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