Your Bird Here

Throw out the turkey! This year, turn to a native fowl—dove, duck, or quail—for your holiday dinner centerpiece. With these inventive recipes from three of our favorite chefs, you’ll be starting a new (and juicier) tradition.

November 2008By Comments

Illustration by Darren Braun

Sure, you could have turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. There’s nothing wrong with serving up a gargantuan, dried-out, unwieldy, predictable hunka protein that nobody with a single functioning taste bud really likes very much. It’s a proud American tradition that goes all the way back to 1621 and, ahem, Plymouth, Massachusetts. But there’s a far more Texan way to celebrate, and that is to serve a tasty, juicy, imaginative, and wieldy bird that actually hails from our fair state. And what might that be? Well, what about a choice between duck, quail, and white-winged dove? (Yes, yes, wild turkeys live here too, but be quiet; you’re spoiling my argument.)

To this end, we asked three leading Texas chefs to create original recipes for cooking and accessorizing these indigenous fowl. And did they ever come through. Tyson Cole, chef-owner of Austin’s Japanese fusion restaurant Uchi, has created a combo that pairs dove with sake-ginger sweet potatoes and a savory cinnamon-apple jus. From Fort Worth, Lanny Lancarte, chef-owner of Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana, takes duck, seasons it with bay leaf and allspice, and serves it up with a mushroom, currant, and jalapeño picadillo. Jason Dady, chef-owner of three San Antonio establishments (Tre Trattoria, the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, and Bin 555), has taken an Italian-oriented approach to bobwhite quail, combining it with a butternut squash, apple, and farro stuffing. So make 2008 the year you throw caution to the wind and the turkey out the door. It’s high time for a new tradition—which, with any luck, will become a cherished one.


Pan-Roasted White-Winged Dove With Smashed Sake-Ginger Sweet Potatoes and Spiced Apple Jus

Tyson Cole, Uchi, Austin

 

White-Winged Dove

Pan-Roasted White-Winged Dove
Photograph By Sarah Sudhoff


Sweet Potatoes

6 medium whole sweet potatoes, preferably garnet or Japanese satsumaimo, available at Central Market
6 garlic cloves
6 pieces ginger, same size as garlic cloves
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
6 tablespoons sake
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Prick potatoes with a knife and sprinkle each with a little salt and pepper. Place each one on a piece of aluminum foil with a garlic clove (halved), a piece of ginger (halved), and a tablespoon of butter. Drizzle with a tablespoon of sake. Seal and bake until tender, about 50 minutes. Carefully unwrap, reserving seasoned butter, if any. When ready to serve, slice into 1/2-inch disks (you may leave skins on or remove) and gently press an indentation into each disk with the back of a tablespoon.

Spiced Apple Jus

1 cup fresh apple juice, preferably unfiltered
1 stick cinnamon
1 pod star anise
1 pinch coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce, preferably Squid brand, available at Asian markets (optional; do not substitute Thai or Chinese fish sauce)

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and reduce over high heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (not quite syrupy). Remove cinnamon and star anise.

Cherry-Cocoa Nib Sauce

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
4 ounces dried cherries, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons cocoa nibs, available at Whole Foods or Central Market; grind finely using a coffee or spice grinder
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallot
kosher salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a nonreactive bowl, lightly whisk, and let stand for 15 minutes.

Dove

2 green apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled and cored
1/2 large onion, peeled
2 thumb-size knobs of ginger
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup salt
1 cup sugar
juice and rinds of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons each of whole juniper berries, coriander seeds, star anise pods, and black peppercorns
24 to 36 doves (allow 4 to 6 per person)
kosher salt and pepper to taste
several tablespoons olive oil
12 or more basil leaves, for garnish (do not omit)

Note: White-winged dove are game birds not available in supermarkets. Squab may be substituted—order well ahead from Central Market or Whole Foods. Or use quail, 2 per person.

Prepare brine: Four hours to a day ahead, put apple, onion, and ginger in a food processor and lightly purée. Combine purée with vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon, spices, and 5 cups water in a nonreactive container. Cover and chill.

Prepare birds: If doves have breast bones intact, you will need to remove them. Lay each bird on a cutting board, breast side up, legs toward you. Using short strokes, cut from top to bottom of left breast, as close to the breast bone (keel bone) as possible; do not cut through to the back yet and do not remove skin. Repeat with right side. Discard keel bone. Fold breasts to each side, as if opening a book, and remove ribs from the front and back (they should come out easily); thighs and legs will still be attached. Now cut bird into halves, down center of back.

Brine birds: Place doves in brine (adding water if needed to cover), put a lid on container, and refrigerate 4 to 8 hours. Remove, rinse, and pat dry.

Cook birds: Put about 1/16 inch cooking oil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan. Heat on high just until oil starts to smoke. Put pieces in pan, skin side down. Lower heat to medium. Press to flatten with a similarly sized pan and, continuing to press, cook until skin is golden brown, about 1 minute. Flip and cook other side, still pressing, until medium rare, about 1 more minute. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes, then cut each piece in half between thigh and breast.

To serve, place sweet potato disks close together on dinner plates. Arrange dove on top of disks, with legs sticking up jauntily. Drizzle with any reserved butter and a little Spiced Apple Jus, then spoon Cherry—Cocoa Nib Sauce around edge. Garnish with basil. Serves 6.


Roasted Duck With Currant, Jalapeño, and Mushroom Picadillo Stuffing

Lanny Lancarte, Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana, Fort Worth

Roasted Duck

Roasted Duck
Photograph By Kevin Marple


Picadillo

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup seeded, deveined, and minced jalapeños
1 1/2 pounds (about 8 cups) mild-flavored exotic mushrooms, cleaned with damp paper towels and sliced 1/4 inch thick (if cost is a consideration, substitute white button mushrooms; get presliced if possible)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup currants or diced cranberries (or less to taste)
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon ground canela (or more to taste), also called Mexican cinnamon, an aromatic papery bark, available at Fiesta market; grind in a coffee grinder, or substitute 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon regular cinnamon (optional)
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon toasted ground cumin, or more to taste (optional)
kosher salt to taste

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté onion for about 2 minutes; do not brown. Add garlic and jalapeños and sauté for about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn garlic. Add mushrooms and sprinkle very lightly with salt, tasting as you go, until flavor is right. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms release all their moisture, 15 to 20 minutes. As mushrooms begin to stick, deglaze pan with sherry vinegar. Add currants and pistachios and cook until currants are rehydrated. Add canela and cumin a little at a time, tasting, as they are quite distinctive.

Duck

3 cups kosher salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 inches canela sticks, or substitute 2 inches regular cinnamon sticks
12 whole allspice
6 bay leaves
40 peppercorns
4 five-pound ducks
kosher salt and pepper to taste
cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Prepare brine: Four hours to a day ahead, put first 6 ingredients and 2 gallons water in a stockpot and boil just until salt and sugar are dissolved. Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 2 hours.

Prepare birds: Trim off and discard large, visible pieces of fat. Put ducks in brine, adding water to cover if necessary. Cover and refrigerate 4 to 8 hours. Remove, rinse, and pat dry.

Cook birds: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle birds inside and out with salt and pepper and prick skin in several places. Roast on rack, breast side up, for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 350 degrees and roast until a cooking thermometer stuck in the thickest part of thigh or breast reads 165 degrees, for medium, or 170, for medium to well-done. Let rest 10 minutes before carving.

To serve, mound picadillo in center of plates. Carve ducks, slice breast meat, and arrange pieces on top. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro or parsley. Serves 6.


Texas Bobwhite Quail With Tuscan Butternut Squash, Apple, and Farro Stuffing

Jason Dady, Tre Trattoria, San Antonio

Texas Bobwhite Quail

Texas Bobwhite Quail
Photograph By Sarah Sudhoff


Stuffing

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced into 1/8-inch cubes
1 pound whole farro grain (or spelt)
4 cups chicken stock
1 fennel bulb, diced into 1/8-inch cubes
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/8-inch cubes
1 celery root (celeriac), peeled and diced into 1/8-inch cubes
1 stick cold butter
1 bunch sage
2 Pink Lady or other firm apples (not Red Delicious), peeled and diced into 1/8- to 1/4 inch cubes
juice of 1 lemon
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Prepare farro: In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté onion until translucent. Add the farro and toast for 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Add chicken stock, lower heat, and simmer until farro is tender and liquid is reduced by half, about 1 hour. (Add water and cook grain longer if necessary.) Spread cooked farro on a baking tray and cool in refrigerator, covered.

Prepare vegetables: In a heavy-bottomed pan or pot, bring water to a boil and blanch (briefly boil) each vegetable just until tender, a few seconds or minutes, depending on the vegetable. Do not combine; they have different cooking times. Put each in ice water, to halt cooking, and drain on paper towels.

Prepare apples: In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium heat, add butter and sage and cook until butter is melted. Add apples and raise heat to high. Sauté until butter is browned but apples are still slightly firm. Add lemon juice, remove pan from heat, and let apples cool. Remove sage, pour off butter, and reserve both. To make stuffing, toss apples with farro and vegetables and season with salt and pepper.

Quail

12 semi-boned bobwhite quail
1/2 stick butter, melted
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sandwich quail in several layers of paper towels and allow to dry completely, refrigerated, replacing towels as needed. Loosely fill birds with stuffing and place on a baking rack, breast side up. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, rotate pan, and cook for another 10 minutes. Birds are done when skin is golden brown and juices run clear. Allow to rest 10 minutes.

To serve, put whole quail on plates and garnish with reserved brown butter and sage. Goes well with mashed potatoes. Serves 6.

Related Content