This recipe is definitely a bit of work, but it's a great dish for when you are having a small number of friends over for dinner and you want to impress them. The vibrant colours should get some oohhs & ahhh's and the rich flavours will have your guests swooning. If you find the dish as a whole a bit too daunting to take on, you can try making just one element at a time first. The red beet coucous is great with chicken or fish. The glazed onions would go well with just about anything. They're awesome with grilled flank steak. If you practice each element with other recipes that you've already perfected , making the complete quail dish will be a piece of cake. Then you'll be ready for when it's time to have the in-laws over.
Recently, a wine maker in Niagara Valley gave me a bottle of Ice Syrup to try and I though it was pretty delicious, so I decided use it to glaze the cipollini onions. It's a non-alcoholic syrup made using the same grapes used to make ice wine. It's similar to maple syrup, but instead of a woody flavour, it has a nice grapiness to it. If you can't find Ice Syrup, you can use ice wine and a little sugar to glaze the onions instead.
Start to finish: 1 hour. Makes 4 appetizers
4 quails, de-boned
2 cups couscous
2 cups red beets, peel & chopped
12 cipollini onions
3 tbs butter
60ml (2oz) Ice Syrup (or 2oz ice wine + 2tbs sugar)
12 cherry tomatoes
olive oil, salt & pepper
mustard sprouts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F
2. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan and add 1 tbs butter and the cipollini onions. Sautée on medium-high heat until the onions start to brown. Add the Ice Syrup and then lower the heat to medium. Continue cooking until the onions are soft and glazed.
3. Generously season both sides of each quail with salt & pepper. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large frying pan and then add the quails skin side down. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. You can fry the quails in batches of 2. Fry the quails on medium high until the skin is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer the quails, skin side up, to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place the boiled beets and cherry tomatoes on the baking tray. Drizzle the beets and tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Roast in the oven until the quails are cooked, about 8-10 minutes.
To serve: Reheat the couscous on the stove with a bit of olive oil. Divide the couscous among 4 plates. Top with the beets, cherry tomatoes and then one quail. Add the glazed onions along with extra syrup from the pan. Garnish with mustard sprouts.