Saturday, October 22, 2016


Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In my kitchen lab, the egg preceded the bird—last week I had quail eggs, this week I’ve got the birds.

Actually, I bought the eggs and quail at the same time, planning a blog with the “small is delicious” theme. But I got so carried away with those quail eggs, I couldn’t seem to settle on just one recipe.

Stuffed and browned, quail are ready to be stuffed in red peppers.

Cute little quail are farm-raised, so they’re widely available. A single quail, weighing about six ounces, does not a dinner make. So serve quail as a starter or light supper dish or combine them with beans or lentils and vegetables in a stew.

Big bell peppers are the "slipcovers" for small quail.

Quail with beans make a main dish. These are pochas--fresh shelling beans.

Quail in “Slipcovers” of Red Peppers
Codornices con Fundas

Tiny quail does not a dinner make.

Stuffed with sausage, wrapped in bell pepper, quail stay moist.

Red bell peppers flavor the quail and keep them moist. A stuffing with morcilla (blood sausage) bastes them from the inside out. If you cannot get morcilla sausage, add a spoonful of pimentón (paprika) and a pinch of clove and cinnamon to the pork sausage.

Serves 6.

Morcilla, blood sausage, for the stuffing.
6 large (5-6 inch-) red bell peppers
6 quail (about 6 ounces each)
Coarse salt
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup minced shallot or onion
6 ounces morcilla or pork link sausage, casing removed and chopped
2 tablespoons raisins
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
½ cup white wine
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Place bell peppers on a baking sheet and roast them until skin is slightly blistered (not blackened) and flesh is soft (not collapsing), about 20 minutes.

When peppers have cooled enough to handle them, remove as much of the skin as possible. Cut off tops, discard stems and seeds.

Rinse quail in running water. Drain them and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a small skillet and sauté the shallot until softened, 1 minute. Add the morcilla and fry for 3 minutes, breaking up the pieces of sausage with a wooden spatula. Add the raisins.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in the bread crumbs. Stuff the quail with the sausage-crumb mixture, using about ¼ cup for each.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet and brown the quail on all sides, about 3 minutes. Remove and reserve.

Working with one quail at a time, tuck the legs against the body and insert the quail, legs first, into a pepper. Place in a baking dish. Pour over the wine and boiling water. Bake the quail-stuffed peppers, uncovered, until peppers are very tender and quail cooked through, about 1 hour. If pan liquid cooks away, add additional ½ cup boiling water.

Allow the peppers to stand 15 minutes. Serve them hot, with pan juices spooned over.

Quail with Shelling Beans
Codornices con Pochas

At the weekly farmers’ market in the Basque town of Guernica, I met a man selling pochas, fresh-podded white beans, also called shelling beans. I asked to buy a half-pound, just to take home a tiny sample. He refused to sell them to me. He swore that his beans were so good that, when I tasted them, I would kill myself for not having purchased more.

They were, indeed, delicious. Thankfully I had purchased a sufficient quantity so that suicide was not contemplated.

I fully intended to let my garden green beans mature so I would have home-grown pochas. As the pods get big and leathery, the beans inside plump up. Depending on the variety, they may be white, green, brown or speckled. But I kept picking the green beans when they were small and tender, so I never got a heap of shelling beans.  However, I found jars of cooked pochas at the grocery store.

Quail legs simmer with beans; breasts are added at the end.

Quail breast, quickly sautéed, is still pink and juicy.

If possible, purchase quail partly boned (breastbone and backbone removed).

Cooked shelling beans from a jar.
6 quail
1 pound shelling beans
2 bay leaves
1 slice onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ounce diced bacon
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper
3 sprigs of thyme
1 cup white wine
Chopped parsley
Mild pickled green chiles (guindillas) as an accompaniment

Cut up the quail. Separate boneless breast fillets and reserve them. Separate the legs and remaining carcass.

Put the beans to cook in water to cover with bay leaves, sprig of thyme and onion slice. Bring to a boil, skim, then cover and simmer. Fresh shelling beans need about 30 minutes cooking time.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Sauté the quail legs and carcasses on a high heat until browned. Add them to the beans.

Add the diced bacon, onion, carrot, pepper and garlic to the skillet and fry until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and 1 pinch of thyme. Add the vegetables to the beans with the wine and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove and discard the quail carcasses.

Shortly before serving, season reserved quail breasts with a pinch
of thyme, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat remaining oil in a skillet and sauté the breasts about 2 minutes on each side.

Serve the beans with the quail legs in deep plates and place a sautéed breast on top of each serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve green chiles to accompany the beans.

More recipes with quail:


Saturday, October 15, 2016


Yup, two dozen eggs in one day! (It was, after all, World Egg Day, second Friday of October.) These were, however, wee quail eggs. It takes six of these mini-eggs to equal one hen’s egg. And, I haven’t eaten all of them yet, so I’m figuring my cholesterol levels won’t spike.

The first time I encountered quail eggs in a Spanish market, I was so charmed by them, small, smooth, brown-speckled shells looking like polished pebbles, that I bought a basketful just to admire them. I served them, hard-boiled accompanied by cumin salt, at dinner parties. I gave cartons of them to friends as gifts.

Quail eggs are not much bigger than a marble.

Quail eggs have become quite common. The small birds are farm-raised, so the eggs are not robbed from nests of wild quail. They taste pretty much the same as chicken eggs. However, the shells have a tougher inner membrane than regular eggs.

To crack quail eggs (for poaching or frying): Tap the shell firmly with a knife blade, then insert the tip of the knife in the crack to split the inner membrane. Use knife or thumbs to open.

To hard-boil quail eggs: Place them in cold water. When water comes to a boil, cook the eggs 3-4 minutes. Drain and plunge them in cold water. To peel them, crack the rounded end of the egg, then roll on a flat surface. Peel off the shell. For soft-boiled with runny yolks, cook 45 seconds.

On my egg binge, I fried them, poached them, baked them and hard-boiled them. Here are a few ideas of what to do with quail eggs.

Hard-boiled quail eggs are dipped in cumin salt. Mix 1 tablespoon table salt with 1 tablespoon ground cumin and a pinch of cayenne. Provide bowls for the shells and let your guests peel the eggs and season with the salt mix.

Or, stuff hard-boiled eggs with black olive paste, called tapenade or olivada.

Bake mushrooms filled with spinach and eggs.

Shoestring potatoes in Spanish are "straw" potatoes. Fry shredded potatoes crisp in olive oil. Place a fried quail egg in potato nests.

Just for fun: cold jellied garlic soup in martini cocktail glasses with a poached quail egg in the bottom.

Quail Eggs Filled with Tapenade
Huevos de Codorniz Rellenos con Olivada

Tiny eggs are filled with black olive tapenade.
With brined olives, capers and anchovies, this paste probably needs no additional salt.

10 hard-boiled quail eggs
1 cup pitted black olives
2 cloves garlic
2 anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon capers
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the eggs, cut them in half, remove and reserve yolks. Place the whites on a serving dish.

Place the olives, garlic, anchovies, capers, oil, parsley, lemon juice and pepper in a blender and process until smooth.

Use a small spoon to fill the whites with the olive paste. Mash the yolks and scatter them on top of the filled eggs.

Quail Eggs in Mushroom Nests
Huevos de Codorniz en Nidos de Setas

Mushroom caps are filled with spinach and quail egg.

Serve these mushrooms with baked quail eggs as a starter.

6 large portobello mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
½ cup cooked spinach, well drained and chopped
Grating of fresh nutmeg
1 tablespoon cream
6 quail eggs
Grated cheese (such as Manchego)

Remove stems from mushrooms (reserve for another use). Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth. Put them in a bowl with 3 tablespoons oil, wine, salt and pepper and chopped garlic.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place the mushrooms in a baking dish, hollow side down. Pour over oil and wine marinade. Bake the mushrooms 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet and sauté the shallots until softened. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook until spinach is heated. Add the cream and cook 1 minute longer.

Choose large mushrooms.

Turn the mushrooms hollow side up. Put a spoonful of spinach into each mushroom cavity. Break a quail egg into each mushroom. Sprinkle tops with grated cheese. Return the mushrooms to the oven until whites are set but yolks still runny, about 6 minutes.

Serve the mushrooms hot.

Jellied Garlic Soup with Poached Quail Eggs
Sopa de Ajo con Huevos de Codorniz

A poached quail egg rests at the bottom of the cocktail glass.

I giggled the first time I tasted this take on garlic soup, invented by Manuel de la Osa of Restaurant Las Rejas in Las Pedroñeras (Cuenca, La Mancha, central Spain). But it’s much more than witty. So delicious are the tastes and textures that I order it every time I return to Manuel’s fine restaurant.

I’ve adapted his recipe using shortcuts. A real jellied consommé needs beef shin and bones to provide the gelatin to set the reduced broth. I’ve used powdered unflavored gelatin with ordinary chicken broth that has been skimmed of all fat and strained. It can be further clarified, if you want to go to the trouble.

To clarify the chicken broth: After straining, place the broth in a clean pan. Add 1 raw egg white and the crushed eggshell. Place the pan on a medium heat and, strirring occasionally, bring the broth almost to a boil. Reduce heat and barely simmer, without stirring, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.

Line a colander with several thicknesses of dampened cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Use a skimmer to lift off and discard the scum and froth from the top of the broth, then ladle the broth or pour it very carefully through the cheesecloth.

Make the jellied broth at least a day before you intend to serve the soup so that it has time to set in the refrigerator.

Poached quail eggs
6 quail eggs
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt

For the soup
3 ½ cups homemade chicken broth, clarified, if desired
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
3 cloves garlic
Salt, to taste

For the accompaniments
1 tablespoon olive oil
(3 cloves poached garlic)
½ ounce thinly sliced serrano ham, cut in 6 triangles
1 tablespoon crushed tomato
½ teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
½ teaspoon sweet pimentón
1/8 teaspoon hot pimentón
Pinch of ground cumin
2 tablespoons water
Finely chopped parsley
Toast crisps

For the eggs. Tiny quail eggs cook so quickly (less than a minute), that it’s best to cook them one at a time. Have ready a bowl with ice water.

Combine 1 cup of water, the oil, vinegar and salt in a small skillet and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat so water simmers.

Break an egg into a saucer. Use a fork to swirl the water in the skillet. Tip the egg into the water and cook just until the white is set. Use a slotted spoon to lift the egg out and put it in the ice water. Continue poaching remaining eggs.

Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove one egg at a time from the water. Trim the whites to make a tidy little poached egg. Place each one in the bottom of a cocktail glass.

For the soup. Place ½ cup of the cold broth in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it.

Place remaining broth in a pan. Lightly crush the 3 cloves garlic, without peeling them. Bring the broth just to a simmer. Cook the garlic 1 minute and skim it out. Reserve the garlic. Add salt to the broth, if necessary.

Add the broth with gelatin to the hot broth. Whisk over low heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Remove from heat and let the broth cool to lukewarm. Then carefully ladle it over the poached eggs in the cocktail glasses.

Refrigerate the glasses at least 12 hours. Remove them from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

For the accompaniments. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet. Peel the 3 cloves of garlic that were poached in the soup. Slice them crosswise. Fry them until the edges begin to turn golden. Remove the garlic and reserve it.

Add the pieces of ham to the oil and fry them until they are crisped on both sides. Remove them and reserve.

Make a sofrito. Add the tomatoes, three kinds of pimentón and cumin to the skillet and fry them briefly. Add the water and a pinch of salt. Cook until water has evaporated and sauce is thick. Cool.

To serve the soup, spoon the sofrito on top of the jellied broth in the glasses. Scatter golden garlic slices on top. Garnish with fried ham. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley. Accompany with toast crisps.

Break up the egg in the soup or spoon it up and eat in one bite.


Coming events
EAT SPAIN UP! New York, 24-28 October, 2016

Eat Spain up! is a cultural event that brings the food and culture of Spain and its regions.
Take a trip to Spain without leaving the city in Food & Culture Sessions. Share the kitchen with guest chefs in Cooking Classes or learn about the iconic foods of Spain in Guided Tastings. Enjoy the Food Photography & Design exhibitions and take advantage of Dining Specials at Spanish restaurants across the city. For program and venues

Saturday, October 8, 2016


North of the provincial capital of Cuenca (Castilla-La Mancha, central Spain) heading towards the high sierras is an idyllic region of fast-moving trout streams, mountain retreats, forested valleys, tumbling waterfalls, and an “enchanted city,” where wind and rain over several millennia have carved karstic limestone into fantasmal shapes. Hugging the rocky cliffs above the River Júcar is the village of Villalba de la Sierra.

Across the bridge and nestled in a wooded area next to the river is El Tablazo, a hotel in a converted flour mill on a small lake. Javi Alegria, fisherman and outdoorsman, runs a trout fishing concession on the lake. Here I caught my first-ever fish.

Small lake is stocked with rainbow trout. Water flows from nearby River Júcar.

“Grip the reel here and hold the line down with your finger, then swing the line out beyond those reeds, letting go of the line at the same time.” Javi Alegria gives me some basic instructions and hands me the fishing rod. The hook on the end is baited with three kernels of corn.

I cast and the line gets snagged. I do it again. And wait. Willows ring the small lake, dribbling branches in the shimmery water. I can hear the sound of the nearby river bouncing over stones. I pull the line in just a little. The float bobs, I feel a tug. Oh my goodness! I slowly reel in the line until, dangling before me, is a lovely rainbow trout. I am so excited that my shouts disturb the peaceful scene.

My first ever fish! (©Photo copyright JDDallet)

I landed two more of the beautiful fish and proudly delivered them to the kitchen of Hotel El Tablazo. My friends and I dined on our catch that evening.

Javi stocks the lake at El Tablazo with farmed fish and opens the fishing concession to guests. He weighs the catch on the way out and charges accordingly. Javi says even fly-fishermen come to the lake because they can fish year-round.

Javi Alegria at El Tablazo Hotel and Restaurant (©Photo copyright JDDallet)

Just a few meters from the hotel, on the River Júcar, Javi fly-fishes for wild trout, sin muerte, catch and release. After the thrill of landing the trout, with no barb on the hook, it is released unscathed. Not dinner. He shows me his selection of nymphs and dry flies.

In bygone days trout was everyday fare in the cooking of Castilla-La Mancha. Every mill-run was a source of trout. In the River Tajo in Toledo, trout was so abundant that it was pickled in escabeche. Now trout that appears at the market or in restaurants is always farmed rainbow trout. That’s what I buy at a local market.

Fresh trout doesn’t need much gussying up. I usually wrap the whole, gutted fish in a thin slice of serrano ham, dredge it in flour or corn meal and fry until skin is crisp. I love eating that crisp skin.

But, if you have a good source and can enjoy trout frequently, it’s great to have a few variations on the tried and true. Javi at El Tablazo gave me a recipe for stuffing a big trout (2 ¼- pounder) with pine nuts, bacon and smoked salmon. Here’s another recipe, using individually-sized trout with a mushroom stuffing

Trout are filleted and filled with mushroom-ham stuffing.

These are individually-sized trout, weighing about 3/4 pound whole.

Trout can be skinned and tiny bones removed. Serve the stuffing on the side.

Trout Stuffed with Ham and Mushrooms
Truchas Rellenas con Jamón y Setas

Crispy skin, moist flesh, savory stuffing.

Use wild or cultivated mushrooms for the stuffing.

Serves 4. 

Farmed trout, center spines removed. Fish still has fine pin bones.
4 trout, each about 12 ounces, filleted (8 fillets)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots
1 cup chopped mushrooms (about 3 ounces)
2 ounces chopped serrano ham or bacon
Pinch of thyme
1 cup white wine, divided
¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
Flour for dredging fish
Olive oil for frying
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Toasted almonds

Sprinkle the fillets with salt and let stand while preparing the stuffing.

Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the shallots and sauté 2 minutes on a medium heat. Add the mushrooms and ham and sauté 5 minutes. Add the thyme and ¼ cup of the wine and cook until liquid is evaporated. Stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Spread the mushroom mixture on each of four trout fillets. Top with another fillet, pressing gently to close. (The fillets can be tied with kitchen twine, although, with care, they will hold together pretty well without tying.) 

Sandwich stuffing between two fillets. Dredge in flour.
Dredge the trout in flour, patting off excess. Heat the oil to a depth of ¼ inch in a heavy skillet. Fry the trout, in two batches, if necessary, on medium heat until browned, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook about 4 minutes more. Remove to a serving platter and keep warm.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the skillet. Add the lemon juice and remaining ¾ cup wine. Boil 3 minutes until reduced by half. Add the parsley to the sauce and pour over the fish. Scatter toasted almonds on top.

(Photo courtesy of El Tablazo, used with permission.)

Hotel El Tablazo (Villalba de la Sierra, Cuenca) in a converted flour mill, has a lovely terrace by a bubbling brook and a restaurant with superb renditions of traditional food (such as morteruelo, a ragout of game). Nearby is Villalba de la Sierra, a village that’s hardly emerged from another century. Shopkeepers lean in doorways and old folk sit in the sun in the plaza against a backdrop of white-washed walls.

Another trout recipe is here.