Quail, properly cooked, still have a blush of pink inside. They are delicate-tasting birds and need this delicate treatment to truly shine. If you are aiming for a temperature, 150°F in either the leg or breast is ideal; quail are so small the whole bird will likely be the same temperature throughout.
- 4 whole quail
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 celery stick
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup inexpensive balsamic vinegar
1 If you are working with frozen quail, either defrost overnight in the refrigerator, or place the package in a large bowl and cover with a couple inches of room temperature water for 20 minutes.
2 Pre-heat the oven to 450-500°F. Truss the quail with kitchen string. Cut off a length of string about 18 inches long. Cross the middle of the string over the quail's legs and bring the string around to the front of the bird, making sure it holds the wings close to the bird's flanks. Tie the string tightly around the neck. (Chow.com has an excellent video on how to truss a chicken, and quail are the same, only smaller.) Allow the quail to come to room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
3 Pat the quail dry with paper towels. Coat the quail with the olive oil and salt well. When the oven is hot, arrange the quail, breast side up, in a small roasting pan. Use pieces of the celery stick to keep the birds upright while they roast. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove the birds from the pan and set aside on a plate to rest for 10 minutes, loosely tented with foil.
4 As the quail are resting, make the sauce by putting the roasting pan on a burner set to medium heat. Discard the celery sticks. Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan by scraping all the browned bits off the bottom. Bring this to a simmer and pour into a small pot or sauté pan. Add the balsamic vinegar, increase the heat to high and boil down to a syrup. Halfway through the boil, pour any accumulated juice from the resting quail into the sauce. When the sauce thickens and will coat the back of a spoon, it's ready.
Serve the quail with the sauce drizzled over everything. Serve with a side of polenta, or rice pilaf.