Pizza Guru took a trip back home to Vermont and came back
bearing a gift of maple syrup. It’s such an American ingredient and as I looked
around my kitchen filled with very Italian ingredients I thought, “What am I
going to do with this? Maple syrup pasta??!”
Fortunately, a quick conversation on Serious Eats, and I had
more than enough inspiration, but funnily enough I paired it with another
American ingredient: bourbon. Was
I embracing terroire, or just not thinking out of the box? Regardless, it turns
out maple syrup and bourbon love each other!
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup bourbon
1 dried chili pepper, crumbled
¼ t Viet Namese cinnamon (very pungent)
¼ t grains of paradise
2-3 juniper berries
Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and gently reduce
just a little, stop when the glaze starts to thicken.
I like to brine my quail, but instead of using a regular
salt brine, I used the whey left over from mozzarella (the whey is that liquid
that comes with mozzarella). The
intrepid experimenters at Ideas in Food and Studio Kitchen had been fooling
around with whey marinades and it is an intriguing way to tenderize meat. The
lactose in the whey acts as the tenderizer, and commercial meat processors will
actually use lactose crystals to tenderize meat. I’ve also experimented with
yogurt as a tenderizer, and it works, but then you encounter the snot factor. I
don’t know the science here, but a few times I wound up with a seriously
mucilaginous sauce. This describes the snot factor, which is defined as when you
bring the fork up to your mouth a long string of sauce snot clings to your
plate. It’s sort of charming with melted cheese; it’s just revolting with a
brown sauce. I’m happy to report that whey tenderized the meat, left no
discernible flavor and there was zero snot factor.
Science lesson is over and now the rest is easy. Brush the
quail with the glaze. You really do need a brush, if you pour, you’ll waste too
much. As for trussing the bird, that is up to you. I don't truss because I think it causes problems with over roasting the non trussed areas. As long as you are not bothered by the wild abandon of the legs, and I'm a great fan of wild abandon, I do not recommend trussing. If you are a bit shy, you may want to truss.
Roast the quail at 375F for about 35 minutes, basting the quail every
8-10 minutes. About 10 minutes
before the quail is done, drain off the pan juices and added them to the glaze,
reduce the sauce again and continued painting the birds with the pan juice
glaze. The overall result was fantastic; the glaze was crackling hard, very
flavorful and just the right amount of finger licking sticky.
The other night, as you can imagine with all of this hot
oven work, it required a cold cocktail as everyone waited for their birdie.
Since we were already in an experimental mode, we opted for a modified Sazerac,
subbing the maple syrup for simple syrup and bourbon for rye (there is no rye
to be had in Umbria, which is reason enough to head back to the States). The maple-bourbon Sazerac was
marvelous, an elegant variation with an elusive complexity from the maple
syrup. This cocktail deserves a better name.
One last note about maple syrup, as Pizza Guru gave me the
full rundown. He is a versatile fellow, isn’t he? This was ungraded syrup that
he got at a Vermont coop and it was a revelation. Not super sweet, not
particularly viscous, it was so delicately flavored you could sip it from a
cordial glass and be quite happy. I’m now spoiled and will be on the hunt for
some of this nectar when we get back to NY.
P.S. I also tried the glaze on some chicken legs….and it is
a fine, fine thing this maple syrup bourbon glaze!