Grilled Mississippi Quail, Marinated in Hoisin, Szechuan Chilies, and Sesame with Sweet Potato Polenta
Wedges of polenta, char-grilled quail, and balsamic syrup seem reminiscent of Italy, a “comfort” dish. But the chef kicks the quail flavor with a marinade made from Asian hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and Szechuan chili paste. The unusual combination works!
- Hoisin sauce - 1 tablespoon
- Szechuan chili paste - 2 teaspoons
- Drizzle of sesame oil
- Salt to taste
- Semi-boneless Quails - 4 (breast bone and backbone removed)
- Sweet Potato - 1 large, about 8 ounces
- Cream - 1 tablespoon
- Butter - 2 tablespoons
- Water - 3-1⁄4 cups
- Salt - 2 teaspoons
- Polenta - 1 cup
- Brown Sugar - 1⁄4 cup, firmly packed
- Ground Cloves - 1⁄4 teaspoon
- Ground cinnamon - 1⁄4 teaspoon
- Grated Nutmeg - 1⁄4 teaspoon
- Ground ginger - 1⁄4 teaspoon
- Ground Mace - 1⁄4 teaspoon
- Cracker crumbs
- Olive Oil - 1⁄2 cup
- Five-Spice Oil
- Five-spice powder - 1 tablespoon
- Grapeseed Oil
- Balsamico Syrup
- Balsamic Vinegar - 1-1⁄2 cups
- Brown Sugar - 1 teaspoon
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh rosemary
- Fresh chives
To make the marinade: In a shallow bowl combine the hoisin sauce, Szechuan chili paste, sesame oil, and salt and blend well. Add the quail to the marinade, coating well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
To make the polenta: Prick the sweet potato with a fork and roast in a 400 F oven for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the potato slightly until it can be handled, and scoop out the flesh. In a rice mill or food processor purée the sweet potato until smooth. Add the cream and butter, and purée until smooth. In a large saucepan bring the water and salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to low so the water simmers. Pour in the polenta, brown sugar, and all spices in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk, keeping the water at a bare simmer. Crush any lumps that may occur against the side of the pan. Cook about 10 minutes or until the mixture is thickened and pulls away from the side of the pan. Add the sweet potato purée to the cooked polenta. Pour onto a sheet pan, and smooth the surface. Cool the polenta at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Cut the polenta into wedges with a cookie cutter or a sharp knife. Dredge the polenta in cracker crumbs. In a sauté pan heat the olive oil and sauté the cut outs, turning on all sides, until crisp and golden. Drain the polenta on paper towels.
To make the five-spice oil: In a skillet combine the five-spice powder and oil and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into a clean jar and let sit overnight or longer in order to allow the spices to infuse the oil.
To make the balsamico syrup: In a small saucepan combine the vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the volume is reduced by three-fourths, about 20 minutes.
To make the quail: Prepare a charcoal fire. When the coals are mostly white, lay the quail skin side down and grill 5 minutes. Flip and grill another 5 minutes until medium rare.
To assemble: Place the cooked polenta on the center of 4 plates. Decorate with sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary. Split the quail in half lengthwise through the back bone and place around the polenta. Drizzle five-spice oil and balsamico syrup over and around the quail. Garnish with fresh chopped chives.