Quail, Partridge or Pheasant
Depending on the size of your birds, figure two quail per person for a generous main course; if there are multiple courses to the meal, one quail will suffice. One partridge will furnish a single diner with a handsome portion, and a medium-sized pheasant will serve two.
For the wine accompaniment, serve:
• A red wine with at least a couple years age – Pinot Noir, Sankt Laurent, Merlot or Blaufränkisch.
• White wine can dress up well here, but should have some substance to it. Excellent accompanists include members of the Pinot family like Chardonnay/Morillon, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris or Neuburger, as well as cuvées made from these varieties.
• Rotgipfler and Zierfandler are wonderful at connecting the aromas of meat and vegetables.
• The Austrian allrounder Grüner Veltliner provides evidence in this case as well that it can cope with nearly any pairing. The more robust Reserve/Smaragd bottlings can add a bit of pleasure to this dish.
For the stuffing:
Sweat the shallots in butter but do not brown. Remove from flame and mix in the parsley. Salt the bread and grate a bit of nutmeg onto it, then mix in with the shallots, blending well. Whisk the egg into the milk and mix with the bread. Work the mixture vigorously, infusing the liquid well. Sprinkle with flour and mix thoroughly. reheat oven to 180°C. Rub the birds well inside and out with salt and pepper; sprinkle marjoram in the body cavity. Using an icing bag, fill the cavity with the stuffing; it should be fairly full, but do not force it in, because the stuffing will expand during cooking. Sew the body cavity closed with a long needle and sturdy kitchen twine. Bind the legs together with thin kitchen thread. Place a stainless steel rack in a casserole dish and add 150ml water; arrange the bird on the rack and spread with butter. Cover with the pancetta – not too tightly or the skin will remain too light – and place in the oven. Classic well-done quail need 30–45 minutes, a partridge 45–60 minutes, while a pheasant takes a solid hour, depending on size. Toward end of the baking time, remove the pancetta and keep warm on a platter. At the end, allow the birds to rest a bit atop the oven. Remove from casserole and keep warm, whilst removing rack from the casserole. Pour in some of the stock to loosen the solids from the bottom of the dish – add more water or stock and reduce. Add a small piece of butter, then strain.
Halve the bird with fowl shears and remove the backbone.
Arrange on a warmed plate and dress with sauce; place crispy pancetta slices on top.
One can work at a higher temperature (220°C), which will reduce baking time by at least half, although the sauce will prove more flavourful prepared at the lower temperature.
Halfway through the baking time, sprinkle freshly chopped herbs such as fresh marjoram over the fowl. Or add thyme and rosemary for a Mediterranean touch.
If some of the stuffing remains, it can be baked in an oven-safe dish or a small ramekin. It will form a lovely crust and tastes wonderful as a side dish. In Upper Austria (Oberösterreich), one or two potatoes are served as the traditional accompaniment. Caramelised grapes go well with quail, while the classic partner for partridge and pheasant is red cabbage.
Serves 8 persons:
2 pheasants, 4 partriges or 4–8 quail
salt and pepper
1 sprig of marjoram per bird
butter for spreading
16 thin slices smoked pancetta
1 shallot finely dicede
butter for sautéeing and for the sauce
1 teaspoon parsley chopped fine
100 g stale bread, crust removed
1 large egg
a bit of milk
1 level tablespoon all-purpose flour
beef stock or water