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

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