Treat yourself to something a little out of the ordinary with this quail & Grana Padano risotto with Prosciutto di San Daniele by Giorgio Locatelli
Quail eggs are about a once-a-year luxury for me; preferably when someone else is doing the fiddly job of peeling. The bird itself isn’t something that we’ve cooked before, but having tried it now in this recipe for quail & Grana Padano risotto with Prosciutto di San Daniele, by Giorgio Locatelli, I was surprised by how easy and unscary the whole process was. The flavour is worth it too; not overpowering or too gamey, but with a wholesome richness. The other advantage of the bird is that, like most game birds, they don’t cost the earth. The best source is probably a good local butcher; it’s where we found these birds.
This is a recipe that does take a little time, so I don’t see it as a quick and easy week night supper dish, but for a bit of a treat it’s ideal. The quail are wrapped in sage leaves and Prosciutto di San Daniele, to add some richness to these very lean birds. They are browned on all sides in a pan, and then quickly roasted and then carved. The breast meat is kept separate to be placed on the risotto at the end, and meat from the legs and wings is stirred into the risotto to add richness. The carcass is used to add more flavour to the risotto stock, so everything is used here.
Roasting the bird was straightforward. Wrap in the sage and Prosciutto di San Daniele then truss it up with string. Trussing a bird was another first for me, but a quick internet search showed the way. Start with the feet, go under the bird, crossing the string like a parcel. Turn the bird over again, and finish back at the legs. Browning the birds only took a few minutes on each side before they’re roasted quickly and then rested.
The bit that takes the most time is the traditional risotto, where the stock is added a ladle at a time, to give the rice some time to absorb it all. It’s well worth taking a bit of extra care here for the best results. To finish the dish, as well as stirring in the quail, butter and grated Grana Padano are added for a result bursting with flavour.
Both Grana Padano and Prosciutto di San Daniele are proud bearers of the PDO, or Protected Designation of Origin status. The scheme ensures quality products by having strict, detailed rules about how they are made, where the ingredients come from, and how the ingredients are sourced. It is an assurance for the consumer that when they pay a premium for a quality product they are getting what they have paid for, and for the producer a premium price means they can invest in training, equipment and concentrate on making their products.
This recipe might look a little daunting, but really there’s nothing too difficult once you get going. Cooking the quail is very straightforward; carving is a little fiddly, but anybody who’s carved a chicken will be able to manage. It’s much the same, but just all on a much smaller scale. With the risotto, as mentioned, don’t rush it: let the rice absorb the stock, ladle by ladle. It’s ready when it’s got that difficult to describe texture: soupy, but not too soupy. But not too stiff either. The Little Red Riding Hood texture: just right.
- 2.5 l good quality chicken stock
- 50 g butter
- 1 onion chopped very, very finely
- 400 g superfino carnaroli rice
- 125 ml dry white wine
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 leaves sage fried in a little olive oil
- 75 g cold butter cut into small dices
- 100 g finely grated Grana Padano
- 12 slices of Prosciutto di San Daniele
- 4 quails
Preheat the oven to 220°/gas 7.
Lay a sage leaf on the breast of each quail and wrap with a slice of Prosciutto di San Daniele. Tie the quails up with string and season with salt and pepper.
Heat some olive oil in an ovenproof pan and brown them on all sides. Turn each quail on its back and transfer the pan to the oven.
Roast for about 4 minutes, then take the quails from the pan and leave them to rest in a warm place for about 8-10 minutes (breast downwards, so that the juices keep the breast meat moist).
After soaking in the flavours of the Prosciutto di San Daniele, both the sage leaves and Prosciutto di San Daniele can be removed.
Remove the legs and wings and put them to the side. Then slice each breast into 4 ready to garnish each plate of risotto.
Heat the stock with the quail carcasses and bring to a simmer.
Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan and add the onions. Cook gently for approximately 5 minutes until softened, but not coloured.
Add the rice and stir ensuring that all is coated in the butter to ‘toast’ the grains. Once the rice is evenly coated and hot, add the wine.
As soon as the wine has evaporated, start to add the stock a ladle or two at a time, continuing to stir thoroughly. When each addition of stock has almost evaporated, add the next ladle.
While the risotto is cooking, deglaze the quails’ roasting pan by putting the pan on the hob, pouring in the wine and allowing it to bubble. Scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan, until the wine and juices reduce.
After around 9-10 minutes, pick the meat off the legs and wings of the quail add along with the wine juices from the roasting pan into the rice. Carry on cooking for about 7-8 minutes, letting the rice absorb the juices, and adding stock if necessary.
Turn down the heat and allow the risotto to rest for a minute, and then vigorously beat in the cold, diced butter and finally the Grana Padano.
Season to taste and garnish with the fried sage leaves and 2 x slices of quail breasts, serve with slices of Prosciutto di San Daniele on the side.
Video post commissioned by Grana Padano & Prosciutto di San Daniele. All opinions our own.
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