Roasted Quail over Lemony Thyme Polenta 

Unlike most people on New Year's Eve....all over the Earth planet....I did not have any plans.  I decided to make a dish for my self that was unlike anything I have done previously; something to challenge myself.  I decided on quail, polenta and a splash of healthy green with broccoli rabe roasted with garlic, s and p and evoo.  Delicious!  I decided to marinate the quail to lessen the alleged gamey natural flavor of the little birds, which, by-the-way, are far more cute alive than dead.  I'm just sayin'. I knew I was going to roast the birds and, just in time, my wonderful, good friend, Miss Maria (whom I am quite sure you all are familiar with by now!), gifted me with a mini cast iron skillet.  Perfect!  This meal was not only delicious, but took far less time than I'd first thought.  I have had polenta before, I have even made it, according to an old recipe I wrote down about eight years ago, and am not sure why I haven't made it Much more often!  Yum-o!  (Thanks Rachael Ray for the various quips I cannot help but utter!). Why I chose the flavors I decided upon just came with experience with poultry, fowl and pork. Lemon and Thyme are prevalent throughout. Enjoy!

Let's get started. Here is my marinade.  It is sweet, savory flavors the meat profoundly.  Just delicious!

The Marinade:
1/4 onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 tablespoon of Herbes de Provence
2 - 3 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 Fresno chili, ribbed, seeded and finely chopped
1 Serrano chili, ribbed, seeded and finely chopped
Zest and juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
1 tablespoon Ponzu (citrus soy sauce)
1/2 tablespoon spicy stone ground mustard
 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

I have not butterflied poultry before, and practice on the little quail was good practice.  I feel that I can do this with chicken and turkey now, successfully.  I had pictures, but I just felt that it would not be in good taste to post them here.  But, I will describe the process.  Using a pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors, locate the spine of the bird.  Cut from back to front on one side, and repeat on the other side, effectively removing the spine of the bird.  Open up the bird.  Inside are the rest of the ribs, legs and wings.  I should have more properly treated the legs and, particularly, the wings, but I have learned from this experience and hope to grow.  

After repeating the butterflying process with the three quail, I placed the carcasses in doubled zip lock gallon sized bags which I'd placed in a bowl.  I seasoned each bird with salt and pepper, then poured the marinade over the birds.  I threw in a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and allowed them to marinate for an hour. 

Meanwhile, knowing that the polenta did not take much time, but required patience and personal attention, I prepped for that and prepped the broccoli rabe.  I blanched the broccoli rabe first and readied it for roasting it.  To blanch, bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil, with a large bowl of iced water close by. When the water is at a roiling boil, add the broccoli rabe and allow it to boil for one minute.   Remove it and place the veg in the ice bath for a couple of minutes to stop the rapid cooking process.  It should be bright green.  If you decide on a different green leafy vegetable, you can perform the same process.  I dried off the veg in a paper towel and placed it in a small skillet, drizzled evoo and grated garlic over it, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and readied it for the oven.  When you are ready to serve, you will need to prep and cook the polenta and broccoli rabe at the same time, so be ready to multitask! The quail is the easiest part of the whole dish! Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees. 

 Add the quail to the skillet and place it into the preheated oven (at 400 degrees).  Roast one side for 12 minutes, turn, and roast the other side for 12 more minutes. 

Admittedly, I did not follow the directions on the bag of the polenta.  If you are new to polenta, it is basically dried corn meal. You can flavor it however you wish, sweet or savory.  You can spread it out to make things like cakes, grill it or fry it to make bruschetta, and the best part, it is completely healthy!  As I mentioned previously, I decided on fresh lemon and thyme.  Thyme is an herb with a lemony flavor, so the two go well together.  I added a couple of rounds of evoo in a large sauce pan along with two tabs of butter, and a clove of garlic, finely grated.  I also added one cup of polenta and sauteed it until the corn meal had been nicely toasted.  Afterward, I added one cup of chicken stock and one and a half cups of water.   I added a full tablespoon of fresh, finely chopped thyme, the zest of half a lemon and the juice of half a lemon.  I stirred the mixture to keep it from burning until it thickened. Just before I covered the pot, I added a small handful of finely grated parmesan cheese  and incorporated it well.  (A lot of stirring is involved for a couple of minutes). 
 Now would be a great time to add the broccoli to the oven!

 Stirring the seasoned polenta.  

 Ready to serve the polenta!

After twenty-five minutes, or so, the quail should be done, after ten minutes, the broccoli rabe should be done, as well as the polenta. You can cover the polenta and allow it to steam, off heat, until you are ready to serve.  Use a fork to fluff  it p if you wish to have peaks rather than smooth, as it will geld together.  I simply made a mound, set the roasted (and amazingly aromatic) quail on two sides of the mound, garnished with fresh thyme, and set some broccoli rabe spears on the other side, garnished with shaved parmesan cheese. Delish!  
 This is my dish.  It was aromatic, fresh and flavorful.  You can make this easily for one, two or twelve. The dish sells itself and the dining experience is quite comforting.  Enjoy!

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