Word of the day – Spatchcock

Today I got to work with two ingredients I’ve never worked with before – quail and wheat berries.  The lesson today was the Central Plains (or really mid-west) and we had a wide variety of food ranging from quail and wheat berry salad, German potato salad, steak, cherry and Hooser pie to beer and cheese soup.

For today we were to prepare a buffet and the Chef assigned each person two things to make, or in my case because the salad was fairly involved, one.  There was another guy making the salad as well, so we doubled up some of our efforts.

I’m guessing most people have never eaten quail, let alone ever seen it prior to it being cooked.  To start with, it’s tiny – each breast is about as big as a thumbnail, maybe a little bigger.  Fortunately they come “pre-fabricated” in that the bones have already been removed from the breast, though the bird itself is still whole.  The other thing is that there are still a few feathers on the bird which have to be removed.

For our purposes we marinated the quail in a mixture of green onion, creamed garlic, olive oil, honey and sherry.  We later would “spatchcock” the quail prior to sauteeing them – that is we would run a skewer through the wings and breast and another one between the legs.  Apparently this helps make it possible to saute the little things by giving them more structure.  After sauteeing the quail to brown them they were finished in the oven for about 5-7 minutes.  As for quail, it’s delicious and I recommend it, especially if you happen to like game birds such as pheasant (which I also love). 

As for the wheat berries, the recipe indicated that they should take 40 minutes to cook in chicken stock.  This was completely false.  Nearly two hours later and they were what could be considered edible, though still not done by any stretch.  Since this is what I had I went ahead and cooled them and mixed them with blanched broccoli and julienned carrot, green onion and chickpeas. 

The veggie mix and the mesclun greens were tossed separately in a vinaigrette of equal parts balsamic vinager & olive oil, some minced basil, paprika and creamed garlic.

Here’s the photograph – not the prettiest I’ve ever done but those damn wheat berries put me far behind schedule when it came to plating.  I’ve also included photos from Monday (Floribbean day) which include yucca french fries with ceviche (the fries were really good) and a sangria granita that I made (the wine was crap so the sangria was crap, but I would make this with good wine again):

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