THIS week I’m cooking up a classic French ballotine — a traditional dish of a stuffed and rolled joint of meat or whole boned bird. Budding chefs, don’t be put off by the description, it can be prepared within minutes and the result — pretty impressive.
Although small birds, quails are perfect for the ballotine. I first tried quail in Spain, cooked over hot coals and deliciously tender. I was hooked from there and often prepare it at Maze Grill — it is very popular with our customers.
I recommend spatchcock quails or butterflied quail for a unique twist. Your local butcher should stock these, plus a small cooking chorizo sausage for the stuffing. The chorizo you are looking for has not been hung or aged, as we want the soft meat and spices to make the stuffing for our ballotine.
Parmesan polenta is a perfect match with the spices of the chorizo and subtle game flavors of the quail. Polenta is a finely ground cornmeal and has been a staple in the Italian kitchen for centuries. In fact, a bonus of this dish is any left overs can be spread in a lined baking tray and placed in the fridge. Once chilled the polenta can be sliced, crumbled into salads or chargrilled with lamb cutlets with pesto for a tasty combination.
But back to this week’s dish:
2 quails with bones removed
1 cooking chorizo sausage
½ cup of steamed spinach
Salt and pepper
– Turn your oven on to 180 degrees.
– Using a sharp knife slice the sausage casing of the chorizo and place into a bowl. Mix the chorizo with a folk to form a smooth paste and set aside.
– Lay out a 40cm square of cling film on a cutting board and place the quail skin side down. Season lightly with pepper then spread the chorizo mousse over the quail flesh leaving a small edge all the way around. Finish the filling by laying two teaspoons of spinach over the mousse.
– Take the bottom edge of the clingfilm and lift and roll the quail away from you into a sausage shape. Roll the bird as tight as you can, trying to avoid any catching from the clingfilm. Tie off the ends and wrap in tin foil before placing in the oven for 12 minutes.
1 cup of polenta
1 cup of water
2 cups of milk
2 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
3 tsp butter
¼ cup grated Parmesan
– Take a large, heavy based saucepan; add the water, milk, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper.
– Bring to a slow boil and slowly add the polenta whilst whisking constantly. Lower the heat and bring to a slow simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon frequently. If the polenta becomes too lumpy and thick add more water, cook for 20 minutes or until the grains are soft.
– Add the butter and stir then add the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Cover the dish with cling film and place it in a warm part of the stove, allowing the dish to rest before serving.
– Take a small frying pan and place on a medium heat with a drop of vegetable oil. Place the ballotine in the pan and lightly pan fry for 2 minutes, and then place in a baking tray and bake in the oven for a further 8 minutes.
– Remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
– Meanwhile take you plates and place a serving spoon of polenta in the middle of the dish. If the polenta is too stiff, whisk in a ½ cup of warm milk.
– Warm up the remaining steamed spinach and place in the centre of the polenta.
– Remove the foil and clingfilm from the ballotine and carefully slice into three, placing on top of the polenta and spinach.