Quail and polenta is a dish often served in the fall during hunting season in Italy.
At North & Navy, we use white polenta. Quaglia is a speciality of Veneto and Friuli where polenta is a staple of the region. In fact, people from the Veneto are often just referred to as “Polenta” by other Italians. During the first world war soldiers holding the Austrians at the Dolomites received Polenta from the nearby homesteads.
Quaglia e Polenta
For the quail
Many butchers carry quail or can order it for you. It often comes frozen and can be purchased with the bones removed. This is preferable as quail are difficult to butcher. Often the pre-cleaned quails leave the femur which can be removed with your fingers without doing too much damage to the meat. We also remove the small wing, but that is optional. At this point, the bird should lie flat on the cutting board like a tiny pelt.
Pre-heat a pan, med/high heat with a tablespoon of grapeseed oil
Season the quail with salt and place skin-side down in the pan
Sear until the skin becomes golden and releases from the pan (about 5 minutes)
Flip onto flesh side and place 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan while removing it from heat.
Use a spoon to baste the quail with the hot butter until it has finished cooking (about 5 more minutes)
Drizzle the quail with honey and toasted poppy seeds while they are still in the pan
For the polenta
Polenta should be cooked for at least an hour. Most packages recommend using 3 parts water for every one part of polenta, but this often is not enough water to do the job. Start with the 3-1 ratio (The water should be at a boil before the polenta is added). You can use a whisk to incorporate the dry polenta, but after that you should reduce the heat to low, and switch to a wooden spoon. Stir frequently and be prepared to add more water. For this it is good to have a second small pot of boiling water so if you do have to add some it won’t drop the heat and stop the cooking. Once the polenta has completely cooked (at least an hour) add a generous amount of grated Parmesan and butter and stir until incorporated.
Place polenta in a shallow bowl or plate. Transfer quail on top and drizzle with a little more honey and poppy seeds.