Codorniz en Escabeche

Marinated Quail

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IT’S AMAZING WHAT IS SOLD IN PETROL STATIONS AND WHAT THAT SAYS ABOUT A SOCIETY. WHEN PEOPLE VISIT ANOTHER REGION OF SPAIN THEY LIKE TO TAKE WITH THEM A SOUVENIR OF THEIR TRAVEL. THAT’S WHY PETROL STATIONS AND ROADSIDE RESTAURANTS OFTEN HAVE GREAT LOCAL PRODUCE. SO ONE DAY WHEN I STOPPED TO REFUEL IN EXTREMADURA I FOUND, AMONGST THE TRUCKERS’ MAGS, BAGS OF SWEETS AND OIL FILTERS, A SMALL PYRAMID OF TINNED PERDIZ EN ESCABECHE (MARINATED PARTRIDGES). THE TRADITIONAL EXTREMEÑAN WAY OF PRESERVING MEAT INVOLVES BOILING VINEGAR WITH WINE AND SPICES TO PRODUCE A LIQUID TOO ACIDIC FOR ANY BUGS TO SURVIVE IN. UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS, GAME OR FISH COULD LAST FOR WEEKS IN ESCABECHE. WITH REFRIGERATION, HOWEVER, ESCABECHE BECAME LESS ACIDIC AND MORE A FLAVOURING THAN A PRESERVATIVE. YOU CAN USE PARTRIDGE FOR THIS RECIPE, BUT AS THEY ARE SEASONAL AND A LITTLE HARD TO COME BY, I HAVE USED QUAIL — BUT PLEASE FEEL FREE TO USE ANY GAME BIRD YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON.

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Ingredients

  • 160 ml ( fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into very thin rounds
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • a few thyme sprigs
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) white wine
  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) good-quality chardonnay vinegar
  • 6 quails
  • 125 g ( oz/1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Method

Heat 80 ml ( fl oz/ cup) of the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, then cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the carrot, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and thyme sprigs and cook, uncovered, for another 5 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to high and boil for 2–3 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium, add the vinegar and 300 ml (10½ fl oz) warm water and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut the last two segments off each quail wing, leaving just the first small bone attached to the breast. Bone each quail by running the tip of a sharp knife to one side of the breastbone and cutting away the flesh from the ribcage right down to the spine. Repeat on the other side, cutting through the skin near the spine to give you two breast and thigh portions. Cut the skin joining the breast and thigh.

Mix the flour and sea salt on a large plate. Dust the quail pieces in the flour. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over high heat. Working in batches, cook the quail pieces for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove and drain on paper towel.

Add the browned quail pieces to the escabeche mixture, then cover and simmer over low-medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Serve hot, or allow to cool, then cover, refrigerate and serve the following day.