As I was packing up my knives at school today, one of my cooking buddies, Cynthia, caught me and said, "Hey Amy, what are you going to name this one on your blog?" I had to pause, because the recipe today added new and challenging ingredients to my repertoire. After posing the question to the rest of my cooking group Richard piped up, "I know, you should call it Quail in a Casket!" – hence the title. Another member, Graham, chimed in "It's like, what do you wanna have for dinner tonight, spaghetti or....ris de veau?" We all fell over laughing, because the thought of actually going to the supermarket in search of sweetbreads seemed so far fetched.
Yes, I realize that we Superior Cuisine Le Cordon Bleu students sound horribly uneducated and perhaps even glib, but really, when you handle quail and all their tiny body parts (hearts, livers, bones, breasts, etc) and sweet breads that look like and feel like blubber, the thought of just a nice normal vegetarian bowl of pasta with some simple steamed vegetables seems like manna from heaven.
Friand de Cailles et Ris de Veau aux Shitakes (quail and veal sweet bread pastries with shitake mushrooms) is created with layers of seared quail breasts and escalopes of sweetbread with forcemeat made from ground up livers, hearts, and shitake mushrooms. It is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. Do the flavors blend perfectly together? Yes. Could any of us in our class eat it? No
People love sweetbreads – my dad ate them all the time – and many in our class might order it at a restaurant (including myself), but I guess our appetites disappeared after putting our little quail caskets together.
There is a misconception that sweetbreads are brains. Actually they are the thymus gland consisting of two parts, the elongated throat gland and the heart gland. (Isn't that the thing on your neck that swells up like a big lump when you're sick? Jeez, those glands are huge on cows!) If you think of cows and their big droopy necks, that's where you'll find this delicate wonder.
To prepare them it is necessary to soak in cold water to bring out any impurities and then blanch very quickly in boiling water (2 min) to remove the film that envelopes them. After that you can pan sear or bake and deglaze with a little madeira for extra flavor. They have a delicate sweet flavor and texture if cooked correctly. Quail is also easy to cook and I prefer just to roast it like a miniature chicken. You can part it into breasts and legs and pan fry it too. It is the California State bird so out respect I don't normally eat it, nor do I see it on Bay Area menus too often.
Just curious...does anyone have any lovely sweetbread recipes or experiences? Or does it make you go – blech!