Quail with Potatoes and Grapes

Quail with Potatoes and Grapes, as featured in Feast of Words, by Anna Shapiro (inspired byBabette’s Feast, by Isak Dinesen)

This classic high-French recipe is, mercifully, pretty simple and fast – you pan-roast some cut-up potatoes, then torture some miniature poultry, boil up the liquids, and have something delicately rich with edges of both sweetness and tartness.

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, or as needed

4 medium potatoes, peeled, cut in 1/2-inch cubes, rinsed, and patted dry

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 quail or Cornish hens

1 1/2 – 2 cups grapes, seedless or seeds removed

4 tablespoons cognac

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 425

1.  Melt a third of the butter (about 2 1/2 tablespoons).  Add potato cubes, salt them, turn to coat, and cover pan.  Cook over low heat for 20 minutes or more, shaking pot occasionally to turn cubes, until potatoes are soft and lightly browned.  Remove from heat and keep warm.

2.  Rinse and dry birds.  Salt and pepper skin and cavities.  Truss, if desired.

3.  Melt half the remaining butter and brown birds, turning.  Place pan in hot oven 8 minutes.  Add the grapes and roast another 2 minutes.

4.  Place pan on stove and add cognac.  Light the liquid with a match and allow flame to burn itself out.  Add the stock and wine and cover, bringing liquid nearly to the boil for 2 minutes.

5.  Untruss birds and remove to heated platter or serving plates.  Add remaining butter to sauce and boil it, stirring, for 2 minutes at high heat.  Pour sauce with grapes over quail and surround with potatoes.

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