Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cook Like a Gold Medal Plate Chef, Part II - Quail Challenge

As part of the "Cook Like a Gold Medal Plate Chef" challenge, hosted by foodiePrints, Whisk: A Food Blog and Rachelle Eats Food in honour of the Ottawa Gold Medal Plates that was held last week, bloggers were invited to create their own interpretations of Chefs Matthew Carmichael and sous chef Jonathan Korecki (of Restaurant E18hteen) two dishes they had created in last year's "black box" competition as part of the Canadian Culinary Championships. For the first half of the challenge, I made pan-fried Arctic char with cauliflower puree and fennel confit.

The other main ingredient that was found in their black box was quail. Chefs Carmichael and Korecki lacquered the birds with Indian Pale Ale and soy sauce, served with risotto and garnished with cubed dragon fruit. Us home cooks were allowed to substitute the dragon fruit for a hard Asian pear, which is what I opted to do in order to incorporate more texture and flavour to my dish.

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Rather than an Indian Pale or a dark bitter ale (another substitute option for us), I picked up Mill Street Brewery's Coffee Porter instead, which was awarded the Gold Medal in the Porter category at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards. Mill Street Brewery's porter ale is laced with Balzac's Coffee, and this has been a beer I've been wanting to cook with for the longest time. With notes of coffee, chocolate and toasted malt, this would be a great pairing with chocolate as a base for a glaze.

The glaze was really an experiment for me as I started to throw things into a saucepan and prayed that it would turn out okay. I ultimately ruined my first batch of glaze when I got a little too crazy. Playing on the idea of Mexican hot chocolate, I had thrown in some dried chillies to the pot. That really did not work out well as it left a really wicked kick to the sauce, and not in a good way. Down the drain the first batch went and I started over, this time turning more to the sweeter side of things by using vanilla to help enhance the cocoa (which in turn helps enhance the Coffee Porter) and molasses, which help cut through the acidity of the cocoa.

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After arriving to a decent glaze, the quail was then marinated for a few hours with some a glaze. Then it was broiled, and served atop a fennel risotto cake (golden and super crispy on the outside, rich and creamy on the inside) and caramelized Asian pear.

This challenge really allowed me to stretch my creativity and use my instincts and taste while making the glaze, and have a little fun all around. While not all experiments work out, it was definitely a great learning experience for me as to what not to do the next time around. For sure this dish can still use lots of improvements, but for a first shot, I'm quite happy with it, and it was quite tasty.

Coffee Porter and Chocolate-Glazed Quail | Fennel Risotto Cake | Caramelized Asian Pear
Serves 2

For the fennel risotto cakes:
3 tablespoons butter
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup arborio rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, kept at a low simmer, plus 1/2 cup reserved for use as necessary
3/4 cup leftover fennel confit, or 1 cup fennel, finely diced
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
Fennel fronds, reserved (optional)

For the quail:
2 jumbo quail, cleaned and pat-dried
1 bottle Mill Street Brewery Coffee Porter, or similar beer with coffee
1 1/2 tablespoons good-quality cocoa powder, sifted
3 tablespoons molasses
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and pod reserved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the caramelized Asian pear:
1 large Asian pear, cut into 16 slices
1 tablespoon butter
1 packed tablespoon brown sugar

To make the risotto cakes: Make the risotto ahead of time, or use leftover risotto (which is always perfect for making risotto cakes). For risotto from scratch, heat 1 tablespoon butter and some olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, celery, garlic and fennel (if using fresh fennel. If using leftover confit fennel, save for later). Allow the vegetables to cook very slowly, for about 15 minutes, until soft and translucent.

Add the rice and stir, allowing it to fry for about a minute or two until most have started to turn translucent (the centre of each grain will still be white). Add the wine and keep stirring the rice slowly, allowing to rice to slowly absorb the liquid.

When the pan is nearly dry of liquid, add a ladle of the warm stock to the saute pan. Again, stir the rice until most of the liquid has absorbed (usually about 3 to 4 minutes), add another ladle of stock and stir. Continue this process until the rice is cooked through, about 20 minutes. If using fennel confit, add it now and stir through.

Remove the risotto from the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the parmigiano-reggiano. Stir to incorporate, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes to allow everything to melt together and get really creamy. Taste and season accordingly. Sprinkle with some fennel fronds. Cool completely to room temperature before proceeding to make the cakes.

Take about 1 1/2 to 2 cups risotto in a separate bowl and add the lightly beaten egg. Combine well. The egg will help bind everything together. Heat a heavy-bottom, nonstick pan over medium heat. Melt some butter and olive oil in the pan. Using a large spoon, form a cake with the risotto and carefully transfer to the pan. Allow to pan-fry for about 2 to 3 minutes until the bottom has become a nice golden-brown and is sturdy enough to flip. Carefully flip and allow to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm. Repeat with remaining risotto.

To make the quail: In a small saucepan, add the beer, molasses, vanilla bean and cocoa powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to medium-low and simmer until it has been reduced to 1/3 of its original volume and has become syrupy and glossy. This will take between 20 to 30 minutes, so keep an eye on it, and make sure you occasionally stir the glaze. You may need to adjust the glaze to your taste, adding a bit more molasses if you find it too bitter or strong for your tastes. Season with salt to help balance the flavours. Allow the glaze to cool a bit.

Rinse the quail with cold water and pat dry. Remove the backbone of the quail and cut it in half down the breastbone. Season both the outside and inside of the quail halves with salt and pepper. Place in a small bowl and toss with some of the coffee porter-cocoa glaze to coat. Allow to marinade for at least 4 hours.

Preheat your broiler. Place the quail pieces , skin-side up, on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and brushed with a little oil. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the quail pieces and rub in to make sure it doesn't stick to the pan. Brush the skin side with some of the leftover glaze from the marinade. Broil for about 5 minutes. Turn the quail over and broil for another 2. Turn the quail again and broil for another 2 minutes to help get some colour on the skin. Remove from oven and allow to rest (this will be about a medium. Time according to your preference.)

To caramelize the pears: In a heavy-bottom skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon brown sugar and allow the sugar to dissolve. Add the pear slices and allow to cook, turning the slices over about every 2 to 3 minutes. Cook until the pears start to caramelize and syrup, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

To assemble: Bring the glaze back to a slow boil and allow to simmer for a minute or two to warm up.

In the centre of a plate, place a risotto cake. Top with 3 to 4 caramelized pear slices. Carefully prop one or two quail halves on top of the risotto cake and quail. Drizzle around the plate with the glaze. Serve immediately.


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