Saturday, April 13, 2013

Quail with Oyster Sauce and Exotic Mushrooms

Hmmm, quail?  Yes, QUAIL!  The small pheasant which is easily bred in farmlands throughout the world.  Raw yolks on beef tartare, fried eggs with blood sausage, deep fried whole quail with white gravy, ahh, we could go on.  However, this recipe combines tropical, earthy and slighty spicy tones to the popular bird. 

Worldly influences seem to shrink as the Internet and digital age continue to develop.  Focusing on a dish that represents numerous Asian countries will be today's objective.  Plus, it is easy to cook at home and a crowd pleaser!  

Vietnamese cuisine benefits from a variety of influences predominantly French, Indian, Chinese and Thai.  The  tropical flavors reflect the southern region, and traditionally, oyster mushrooms would accompany the quail, but I enjoy variety, so we added white and brown beech mushrooms which should be easily found at your local Asian market.  The use of oyster sauce reflects a Chinese style, and the elements of the spice trail bring to mind India and Thailand.  Coconut water (or milk) is prevalent in Southern Vietnamese cooking and its Cambodian and Laos influence.  

Grab a skillet and knife, and let's get to work!

Chim Cut Uop Voi Nam Rom- Quail with Exotic Mushrooms
4 each quails- semi-boneless should be easily available
3 shallots- minced
3 cloves garlic- minced
¼ tsp white pepper
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp Chinese five spice-*
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp fish sauce-*
1tbsp oyster sauce-*

½ cup coconut water-*
2 cups Exotic mushrooms- a good variety is fun, keep it interesting
*-can be found at your local Asian market

To get started, cut the backbone out of each quail, then flatten with the breast side up (referred to as spatchcocking).  This will allow even cooking.  If you purchased semi-boneless quail, disregard this step.  

Mince the garlic and shallot, and blend in a mortar with the rest of the marinade ingredients.  I would try to allow this to sit overnight or at least 4-5 hours.  In a hot pan, add a few tablespoons of oil.  Be careful not to overcrowd the pan, and start with the skin side down, brown and flip to continue cooking through.  Be sure to scrape all the marinade into the pan, don't leave any flavor behind.  

When brown crusty bits begin to form on the pan, add your mushrooms.  The natural mushroom water will help release those pieces of goodness.  

As the mushrooms begin to brown, gently shake the pan and scrape the bottom.  Add the coconut water and cook uncovered for a minute or two, then cover and allow to simmer on low for about 10-12 minutes.  

Once the flavors are fully incorporated, remove the cover and gently reduce the sauce for another minute or two.  The sauce should thicken nicely until it coats the back of a spoon.  Serve with a side of rice and traditional Vietnamese herbs and garnishes.  I used cilantro, Vietnamese coriander and bean sprouts with sliced green onions.  

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