Smoked & Sauced Quail with Figs & Spiced Apple Purée

Smoked & Sauced Quail with Figs & Spiced Apple Purée
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About This Recipe

Nestled between rolling hills and verdant vineyards, Napa Valley is more than just a region—it's a taste, a lifestyle, and a story waiting to be told. One dish that encapsulates the Napa spirit is the Smoked & Sauced Quail with Figs & Spiced Apple Purée. A melange of California's bounty, the dish showcases the perfect blend of local flavors and world-class culinary techniques.

The genesis of this dish is an ode to Napa's legacy. Quail, a delicate game bird, is often seen flitting around in the region’s open spaces. Its mild, slightly gamey taste is a blank canvas, eagerly waiting for the right brush strokes. Enter the local figs—bursting with sweetness and a taste reminiscent of late summer and early fall in wine country. And let’s not forget the spiced apple purée, which resonates with California's autumnal heartbeats. Together, these ingredients weave a tale of the land's rich agricultural history, its unique microclimate, and the unrivaled palate of flavors it offers.

Now, while the dish alone can mesmerize many, it becomes an unparalleled gastronomic experience when paired with the right wine. The lush vineyards of both Napa and neighboring Sonoma are renowned globally, offering a spectrum of wines that can elevate this dish to new heights. Consider Duckhorn Vineyards's Merlot—a velvety wine with soft tannins, it mirrors the Merlot-infused sauce in the dish, making it a safe and complementary choice. For those who like classics, a Pinot Noir, particularly from Williams Selyem in Sonoma, aligns beautifully. The wine's subtle fruit tones enhance the fig's sweetness while letting the quail shine. And for the daring souls, a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) offers an exhilarating dance of flavors. Tablas Creek Vineyard is an exemplary choice, merging the fruity notes of Grenache with the spicy undertones of Syrah, rounding off with Mourvèdre's depth.

For those who cherish a lighter touch, Napa's Cakebread Cellars produces an elegant Chardonnay. Crisp, with a hint of green apple, it contrasts the dish’s richness, cleansing the palate and preparing it for the next bite.

But how does this dish fit in a broader menu? In wine country, we believe in celebrating each ingredient. Start with a light appetizer—perhaps a fresh heirloom tomato salad with a drizzle of olive oil from Round Pond Estate, a beloved Napa Valley producer. Following our star entrée, a cheese board featuring selections from Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes—a short drive from Napa—would be the perfect denouement. Their cheeses, coupled with a Late Harvest wine or even a Port, offer a sweet, creamy finish to the meal.

If you ever find yourself wandering the streets of Napa or Sonoma, remember that every dish, every wine glass holds more than just flavors—it holds stories. Stories of the land, the people, and the passion that makes this region so iconic. As you plan your visit, indulge in local offerings, savor every bite, and let the magic of Napa enchant you, one dish at a time.

For those culinary aficionados and wine enthusiasts planning a trip, or even the curious souls yearning for a taste of Northern California from afar, the Smoked & Sauced Quail with Figs & Spiced Apple Purée is not just a recipe—it’s an experience. An experience rooted in the traditions of wine country, sprinkled with the innovation of modern-day chefs, and poured generously with love and history.

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Figs

Figs are not just another fruit; they are a symbol of California's bounty and the Mediterranean legacy. Grown in abundance in the Napa Valley region, these sweet, succulent fruits are packed with dietary fibers, vitamins, and minerals. They are nature's candy, offering a natural sweetness that reduces the need for added sugars. When paired with savory dishes, like our Smoked & Sauced Quail, they create a balanced flavor profile, giving depth to every bite. The ancient Greeks revered figs for their nutritional and medicinal properties, and today, they remain a cornerstone in many gourmet recipes, particularly in Napa's wine country.

How to Perfectly Smoke Quail

Smoking meats can seem daunting, especially with delicate game birds like quail. Here's a step-by-step guide to get that perfect smoky flavor without overpowering the meat:

  1. Brine First: Before smoking, soak your quail in a brine mixture (salt, water, and some herbs) for at least 4 hours. This ensures moisture retention and flavor infusion.
  2. Choose Your Wood: Fruit woods like apple or cherry are ideal. They offer a mild smoke that doesn't overpower the quail's natural flavors.
  3. Preheat Your Smoker: Aim for a temperature range of 225-250°F. Consistent temperature is crucial.
  4. Position the Quail: Place the birds breast side up on the smoker's rack. Ensure they're spaced out to allow even circulation of smoke.
  5. Monitor Temperature: Use a meat thermometer. Quail should reach an internal temperature of 165°F. This usually takes about 2-3 hours.
  6. Rest: Once smoked, let the quail rest for 10 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute.

FAQs

  1. Can I substitute another meat for quail? Absolutely! While quail is the star of this dish, you can also use Cornish hens or even chicken thighs. Adjust cooking times accordingly.
  2. I'm allergic to apples. What can I use for the purée? Pears are a fantastic substitute. They offer a similar texture and sweetness. Alternatively, try a butternut squash purée for a unique twist.
  3. How should I store leftovers? Store any leftover quail and purée in separate airtight containers. They should remain fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  4. I don't have Merlot. Can I use another wine for the sauce? Certainly! While Merlot offers a specific flavor profile, you can use other red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or even Pinot Noir. Just ensure it's a wine you'd enjoy drinking!
  5. What cooking tools are essential for this recipe? A good-quality smoker is crucial. Additionally, a food processor for the purée, a saucepan for the sauce, and a meat thermometer to ensure the quail is perfectly cooked.

Tips for Success

  1. Source Local: Whenever possible, source your ingredients from local farmers or markets. Napa Valley offers a plethora of fresh produce. Not only does it boost flavor, but it also supports the local community.
  2. Wine Selection: Remember, always cook with wine you'd drink. The better the wine, the richer the flavor of your sauce. If you're unsure about selections, Napa and Sonoma are filled with wineries. Consider visiting or researching Duckhorn Vineyards or Williams Selyem for inspiration.
  3. Presentation Matters: Elevate your dish by considering presentation. A sprig of rosemary, a drizzle of the sauce around the plate, or even a slice of grilled fig can make your dish look as exquisite as it tastes.

Recipe Overview

Recipe:
Smoked & Sauced Quail with Figs & Spiced Apple Purée
Author:
Lily Anderson
Season:
Fall
Yield:
4 servings
Calories Per Serving:
325
Prep Time:
PT20M
Cook Time:
PT45M
Total Time:
PT1H5M

Ingredients List

Ingredients:

  • 4 whole quails, cleaned and prepped for smoking
  • 8 fresh figs, halved
  • 1 large apple (preferably a tart variety like Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup red wine (preferably a rich Napa Valley red, such as Merlot)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. For the Spiced Apple Purée: In a saucepan, combine the chopped apple, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the apples are tender. Use a blender or immersion blender to purée the mixture until smooth. Stir in the unsalted butter until melted and well combined. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Preheat your smoker according to its manufacturer's instructions.
  3. For the Quails: In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub this mixture all over the quails, ensuring they are well coated.
  4. Place the quails in the smoker and smoke for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
  5. While the quails are smoking, heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Add the halved figs, cut side down, and sear for 2-3 minutes or until they begin to caramelize.
  6. Deglaze the skillet with the red wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Add the rosemary sprigs and let the mixture simmer until it reduces by half.
  7. Once the quails are smoked, transfer them to the skillet with the wine and figs. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, ensuring they are well coated with the sauce.
  8. To serve, spoon a generous amount of the spiced apple purée onto each plate, then top with a smoked quail and figs. Drizzle any remaining sauce from the skillet over the top.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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