Bacon-Wrapped Quail Stuffed with Morels, Grape Leaves & FetaJun 14th, 2010 | By Peter Minakis | Category: Bacon, Cheese, Featured, Greek, Greek Grill, Greek Wine, Herbs, How To, Main, Spices
Like many other countries, Greece has a hunting heritage. I remember my Uncle Pavlo (dearly departed) going out for all-day and weekend hunts and he would often come back with game birds. Squab (pigeon), pheasant, duck, grouse and other game birds…like quail. Most of you by now have seen little quail eggs being offered at the market and they seem to be the darling ingredient of chefs on many TV shows.
Lots of Greek tavernas will have quail on offer on their menu, usually appearing as part of a mixed grill and even sometimes all on their own. These little birds are lean, most of what’s for sale at the markets are farm-raised and the flesh can range from light-tan to a medium-brown colour.
Quails range from 4 to 5 ounces, so you’re looking at one per person if serving as an appetizer or two if serving as a main. They are a lean bird and therefore lean and they could benefit from a little fat. The farm pig comes to the rescue here, namely bacon. I’ve also incorporated a marinade that uses Greek favoured flavours: olive oil, citrus, garlic, thyme, some sweet paprika and warm, cozy cinnamon.
The birds are small, the meat is lean and therefore I wouldn’t go beyond six hours for marinading. It is also important not to overcook quail. This recipe requires some searing of the the skin and the wrapped bacon and then some indirect heat to finish off these finger-lickin’ birds.
Not to be satisifed with marinading and bacon-wrapping the quails, I though to also stuff these cuties with just in-season grape-vine leaves (yeah, the kind us Greeks use to roll-up Dolmades), Morel mushrooms can be found in the markets now and ubiquitous Greek tart, briny and rich Feta cheese for that “pop” of flavour.
Some of you may have access to fresh grape vine leaves (like I am). I pick, wash and jar them with a brine solution and then available in my pantry all-year ’round. If you don’t want to jar grape-vine leaves but have access to them, simply blanching for a couple of minutes in salted water and place in ice cold water and pat-dry.
Morel mushrooms. Definitely royalty when it comes to mushrooms. They are not as expensive as truffles but at $30/lb. fresh at the market, they are amongst the elite. Many fine stores will also carry dried Morels and that’s what I used for this dish. Simply boil some water and pour enough to just cover your dried Morels in a small bowl. Give them about 5 minutes to rehydrate and you may use them in your dishes.
Finally, Feta cheese. A little goes a long way. Feta is made of goat’s milk, sheep’s milk or a combo of the two. Feta cheese is exclusively made in Greece and it NEVER contains cow’s milk. Ask for Greek Feta at your deli stand, visit a Greek grocer or…(if living in the US), place an order of Greek Feta from Christos Marketplace. Taste the difference.
Bacon-Wrapped Quail Stuffed with Morels, Grape Leaves & Feta
8 whole quails
16 strips of bacon
1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. of orange zest
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (plus extra thyme leaves for garnish)
wedges of lemon for garnish
sprigs of rosemary
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
8 grape vine leaves
8 Morel mushrooms (if using dry Morels, simply rehydrate in some boiling hot water for 5 minutes)
approx. 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
- Rinse and pat-dry your quails. In a large baking vessel, add the oil, lemon and orange zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon and thyme and mix well. Add your quails and rub the marinade all over the birds. Cover and place in the fridge for up to 6 hours.
- Allow the quails to return to room temperature. If using jarred grape leaves, rinse under cold water and pat-dry. Place the grape leaves on your work surface with the vein side facing up. Spoon about a tsp. of crumbled Feta in the center of each leaf and then place a morel mushroom in the center.
- As if you were rolling up a cigar, fold the bottom part of the leaf up, then fold the left and ride sides of the leaf into the center and then roll-up the remaining leaf to form the parcel. Now insert the parcel inside the cavity of the quail. Repeat and stuff the remaining quails.
- Lightly seasoning the quails with coarse sea salt and some fresh ground pepper. Tuck0in the wings of the quails. Now wrap each quail with one strip of bacon across and around the breast bone and then wrap another strip of bacon vertical over the breast and under to the back bone.
- Now make a an incision into the shank part of the quail leg and then insert the other leg into this opening to secure the legs and help seal the cavity.
- Pre-heat your gas or charcoal grill. Brush the grill surface well to remove any residue. We want a medium-high heat (count up to five when placing your hand over the heat).
- Place the quails on your grill and sear on all sides of the quails or until the bacon has crisped-up. Now ensure one side of your grill has no heat and place your quails on the side of the grill without heat. We are now finishing cooking the quails over indirect heat.
- Insert a sprig of thyme and rosemary in between where the legs cross and meet the enclosure of the cavity. The herbs will add more flavour to the quails and offer added flare to your presentation. Cook the quails over indirect heat (internal temp of grill at 400F) for 20-25 minutes.
- Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with some grilled red peppers, grilled oyster mushrooms and a wild rice pilaf. I paired this meal with a Pavlou Estate Kappa P35 Rose.
If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.
© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis
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© 2010 – 2013, Peter Minakis. All rights reserved. If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.