This dish came as a refreshing surprise considering the day I’d had leading up to it. I made this last week, on a Monday night, while our kitchen was in the midst of some serious home improvement. It started when our faucet went tits up. Basically the people who owned our house prior to us put in the cheapest possible equipment and the kitchen faucet was hanging on by a thread. This lead to us spending a day roaming around Home Depot, overwhelmed by the massive amounts of options available.
Which then lead to us getting a brand new sink, which lead to the whole kitchen being in complete disarray when dinner time rolled around. There were wrenches and silicone sealing stuff everywhere and, oh god, even a circular saw. I had these lovely quail breasts thawed and ready to be cooked, but my motivation level was at a steady decline as I surveyed the mess around me. It was a serious toss-up on whether I was going to cook or if we were ordering pizza. The pizza was looking like a front-runner, but somehow I resisted its siren call.
And when I managed to whip up this dinner about thirty minutes later, I damn near felt like a miracle worker.
But I can’t take all the credit because I had some amazing ingredients to work with. The first of which was some Benton’s bacon, a gift from my dear friend DB’s parents. They had come into town a month or so ago and I took them to my husband’s restaurant where he showered us with amazing, delicious treats. As a totally unnecessary (but truly awesome!!) thank you, they sent us the gift that keeps on giving — the gift of bacon. If you haven’t had Benton’s bacon yet, you are missing out. I would suggest you immediately click here and order some for yourself. Be prepared to be wait-listed, this stuff is in serious demand, but the four-week delay will be well worth it.
I also had some Manchester Farms quail breasts. This is a South Carolina-based company that I buy from every week at my job — though we tend to buy mainly whole or semi-boned quail. The breasts were an item we had ordered a few months ago to run as a special and I snatched up a few packs to stash away in my freezer. They cook quickly, are easy to eat (no teeny tiny bones to nibble around) and are way more fun than chicken. If you haven’t eaten quail before, you really should give it a try. Quail has a flavor almost like a cross between chicken and duck, and it’s extremely versatile — I’ve had it grilled, chicken-fried and, most recently, in a preserved plum sauce.
Next, from the depths of my fridge, I brought out hard-boiled eggs, goat cheese, butter lettuce, tomatoes and a few random veggies. I started by tossing some cauliflower and brussels sprouts in olive oil and roasting them in the oven. I looked at the rest of my ingredients and thought — hmmm…Cobb salad!
While the vegetables cooked, I made a quick red wine and honey vinaigrette. I love this salad dressing — it’s slightly sweet with a nice twang from the shallots and vinegar. I don’t use a real recipe, but if you were hoping to replicate it (or are just looking for an amazing vinaigrette to try) this one seems pretty darn close. The color is spot-on if you’re using a blender and it will stay nicely emulsified for quite some time.
Then I cooked the bacon. Beware this bacon is a smoke lover’s dream. Ever since it arrived, I have been coming home from work to discover that my kitchen still smells like hickory smoked goodness from my husband’s breakfast. That is far from a bad thing, by the way. It’s just a simple fact.
Next up was the quail. I went pretty simple, just using salt and pepper on the breasts and cooking them in a combination of olive oil and a touch of bacon fat. When I say these cook quickly, believe me. A nice golden sear on the skin (start in a very hot pan), a little flip and they are done. The whole process will take about two minutes.
While the breasts rested, I peeled the eggs, chopped up a tomato and washed the lettuce. I threw the dressing in with the greens and veggies and gave everything a good toss. After a smattering of goat cheese and bacon bits were applied, this salad was looking good.
But it needed the final touch — crispy quail breasts. Repeat after me — quail should be eaten medium rare. Please do not send back pink quail if you get it at a restaurant. It should be juicy, slightly gamey and succulent. Like this.
I’m almost embarrassed I even contemplated ordering a pizza because this dinner turned out to be so amazing. It was light and fresh, yet totally satisfying — perfect for a springtime supper.