Grilled Quail and Black Mission Figs with Endive and Pinot Noir Verjus
Verjus is the acid juice extracted from large unripened grapes, in this case Pinot Noir grapes; the directions below will tell you how to make your own. It takes several days, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Mark Gould uses the sharp bright taste of reduced verjus to accent rich grilled herbed quail, which are served over a salad of endive and apples. Marinated grilled figs accompany the dish.
- Pinot Noir grapes - 2 cups, crushed unripened
- Baker’s yeast - 1 teaspoon
- Sugar - 1 teaspoon
- Apple or pear eau de vie or cognac - 4 to 6 ounces
- Sugar to taste
- Quails - 4, semi-boneless (reserve necks and wing tips)
- Olive oil - to rub quails
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pancetta (Italian bacon) - 4, thin slices, or lean American bacon
- Mixed Herbs - 1 tablespoon, chopped (parsley, thyme, tarragon, stemmed; reserve the stems)
- Black Mission figs - 6, split in half lengthwise
- Balsamic Vinegar - 1/3 cup
- Olive Oil - 3 tablespoons
- Pancetta, or chopped lean American bacon - 3 tablespoons
- Reserved necks and wing tips of quails
- Reserved herb stems from parsley, thyme, and tarragon
- Butter - 2 tablespoons
- Shallots - 2, sliced
- Pinot Noir wine - 1 cup
- Rich chicken stock - 1 cup
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Endive Salad
- Belgian endive - 2 heads
- Gravenstein or Granny Smith apple - 1
- Walnuts - 2 tablespoons, toasted, roughly chopped
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Olive Oil - 3 tablespoons
- Chives - 1 tablespoon, chopped or snipped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper taste
- Chives - 6 - 8, chopped
- Thyme Sprigs - 4
To make the verjus: Place the crushed grapes, skins, and seeds in a large glass jar or bowl and stir in the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Cover loosely with waxed paper (to keep out dust) and allow to ferment at room temperature for 3 - 4 days; do not seal. Strain or filter the liquid and discard the pulp. Stir in the apple or pear eau de vie or cognac; adjust sweetness to taste with sugar. Place in a non-aluminum pan over medium-high heat and reduce to one pint of liquid (or reduce by half). Store in glass bottles in the refrigerator.
To prepare the quails: Slit the flesh at the base of the quails between the legs. Rub the quails with olive oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Wrap each with a slice of pancetta, making a band around the quails. Tuck the ends under the wings and secure with toothpicks. Sprinkle both sides of each quail with chopped herbs and rub the herbs onto the birds. Pull the legs toward the front of the birds through the slits (this eliminates the need to tie the legs together). Refrigerate until ready to grill.
Put the figs in a small bowl and toss with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Allow to marinate at least 15 minutes.
To make the sauce: Combine the pancetta, quail pieces, herb stems, butter, and shallots in a 2-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Allow the mixture to brown, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture has caramelized to a rich brown, add the wine and stir up the browned pieces. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by one half. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
To make the salad: Core the endive and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch julienne. Cut the apple in half, core, and julienne, leaving the skin on. Toss all ingredients together in a nonaluminum bowl.
To complete the dish: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Light a charcoal grill and let the coals burn until they are covered with light grey ash. Or, preheat a gas grill or broiler on high setting. Place the quail on the grill and let cook for 1 minute. Lift carefully with large tongs and turn; sear for 1 minute on the other side. The quail may also be seared until golden in a saute pan in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place in a baking pan and cook in the oven until the juices run clear; total cooking time will be 15 to 20 minutes. Grill the figs for 2 minutes on each side, then return to the marinade until the quail is finished. Place 1/2 cup of verjus in a small non-aluminum saucepan over medium-high heat and boil until the liquid is reduced to a syrup-like glaze (3 to 4 tablespoons).
To serve: Pile one fourth of the salad in the center of each plate. Remove the toothpicks from the quails. Place one quail on each salad, legs up. Spoon the sauce over the quail. Place three fig halves on each plate and drizzle reduced verjus around the plates. Sprinkle the plates with chopped chives and a sprig of thyme.