Quail with Caramelized Onions and Brandy (codorniz al brandy)

A delectable Spanish quail recipe with caramelized onions and brandy. Excellent as a main course or starter, the dish is best served with crusty fried bread.

The Food of Spain
From the book The Food of Spain
Claudia Roden
By Claudia Roden
Buy on Amazon

Introduction

In his book Homage to Catalonia, written in 1937, George Orwell described the way peasants spread out nets over the grass at night and lay down making noises like female quails. When male quails came running they got entangled in the nets. Although European Union rules have made it illegal, it is a Mediterranean custom to catch migrating birds that fly over the sea in big nets. In Cyprus, where hunting is a large-scale activity, endless tapes of birdsong are played to lure birds into nets. I wonder if this has caught on in Spain? Anyway, most of the quails you find now in Spain are farmed, as in Britain.

The onions take a long time to caramelize, and are delicious with added brandy. Serve the quails on fried or toasted sliced bread that will soak up the sauce.

You will need to pick up the birds with your fingers when you eat, so provide finger bowls.

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter

Ingredients

4 quails
5 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, peeled, halved and sliced
Salt and pepper
125ml brandy, or to taste
4 large slices of firm white bread, crusts removed, fried in oil or toasted

Instructions

Pull off any remaining feathers or singe them off over a flame, then rinse the quails and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a wide, heavy frying pan or casserole and put in the onions. Cover and cook slowly over a very low heat for about 30 minutes until they are very soft and beginning to colour, stirring often.

Push the onions to one side, put the quails into the pan and season with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium. Keep turning the quails to brown them all over — around 7 or 8 minutes — and stir the onions so that they brown evenly. Add the brandy and cook, covered, over a low heat for 25 to 30 minutes until the onions are caramelized and the quails are done. Pull the leg of one of the quails — if it moves easily they are cooked. They should still be a little pink. Serve them on toasted or fried sliced bread.

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