The Quail Quandary

Every Christmas I cook for a few family and friends functions. Some just contributing a dish, others I host and hence have to enter in to the vortex of menu coordination. I enjoy these challenges, using my own cookbooks, magazines and the net to find the exciting and the exotic. Whatever angst there might be in the preparations is usually justified by the spectacular end result. Usually.
One Christmas I'd painstakingly prepared a sophisticated menu of dishes I'd never tried before. Rule #1: Choosing untried dishes for a major celebration is a BIG risk. One that is hardly ever worth taking. But I broke this rule because, hey, I only had three children under four years at home to otherwise distract myself.

Racing to the shops a day before the big event, sans children in the small time frame I'd managed to arrange, meant I was only slightly frazzled before I'd even begun. Rule #2: Try not to leave all the food shopping until the last minute. The shops are manic then, and so are you. Holding my long list of obscure food items I arrived at the butchers to discuss the main ingredient. What I hoped would be the piece de resistance of my menu: Quail. Rule #3: Avoid Quail.

With my already bulging shopping bags piled on a too thin little ledge in front of the glass counter (why is that ledge so narrow, what is its purpose??) we discussed quail quantities and preparation complexities. Suddenly, my bags were toppling off the edge and crashing to the floor. There was a spectacular shattering noise - as a glass bottle of Japanese rice wine vinegar smashed in to a million pieces, the liquid quickly spreading in a large pungent pool. Did I mention this butcher was in the middle of an extremely busy shopping centre, and that the bags fell into an extremely crowded thoroughfare?

I remember blinking back tears and staring up at the (thankfully nice) butcher, thinking, if he says one harsh word, I'm going to lose it in public, big time.
"Don't worry love," he said instead, perhaps realising he was staring at a donkey on the edge, "These things happen. I'll call the cleaner. Now about that quail.."

Anyway, I finally made my overloaded way home where I later cooked my complicated feast, which everyone enjoyed - except perhaps me who had spent hours trussing quail, making strange side dishes to complement quail and then eating what I deemed to be a rather tasteless and unexciting main meal. Frankly I was too exhausted to pick through the extremely small bird full of bones. The quail and I would definitely have been far happier if he'd been left in the wild, to happily do whatever it is quails do.

My point is, whether you're cooking for one at Christmas, or cooking for ten, don't choose recipes where the ingredients or preparation (or both) will leave you feeling like a wrung out dishcloth by the time you sit down to the meal. Simple fare, tasty, tried and true, is often best.

That said, I found this picture on pinterest of a roast quail with blackberries and balsamic glaze.
It looks divine.
I wonder if I've left it too late to order some quail?


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