American fowl, North African twist.
I’ve had this Harissa carrot salad thing from Smitten Kitchen in the back of my mind for quite some time. I love Harissa sauce, and I love a carrot salad. It’s always a good use for the carrots that typically end up in the bottom of my vegetable drawer, waiting patiently to be used for (sometimes) months. Sometimes they get a little too impatient and start to turn, wilt, or sprout, but I digress. This Harissa carrot salad is quite good; so good, in fact, that I’ve been using the leftover Harissa I have in dressings and it’s been fabulous! Thank you, Smitten Kitchen!
If you’re not familiar with Harissa sauce, it’s a North African condiment of sorts that’s kind of like tomato paste except made with mild red peppers, albeit some versions are “looser” and less pasty than others. It has a hint of a kick, but not too much for a sensitive palate. You can find it in most Middle Eastern grocery stores, at a specialty store like Whole Foods, or, of course, online. The tiny can of Harissa I used I had for quite some time because the last time I used that brand it was a little too vinegary for my tastes, but of course that’s perfect for dressing! Done and done. So, moving along to the wild game portion of the dish here, El Gallo shot some quail and I didn’t really know what to do with them. I wanted to roast them, but didn’t want the little guys to dry out. I settled on keeping the flavors simple, but using honey in the marinade so they would get a little crispy on the outside without over cooking them.
Now, everybody’s oven is different, so definitely keep an eye on your quail, and definitely line your pan because the honey drippings will definitely burn. Having said all that, some how the stars aligned and I managed to cook my quail perfectly. Yes, perfectly. 10 minutes at 350 and another 3 minutes near the heating element at 450 to help it brown did the trick, and it was cooked all the way through, nicely browned and still moist. It was kind of surprising, because as a sometimes-vegetarian, I rarely cook chicken, and El Gallo doesn’t shoot much fowl. But alas, it can’t always go wrong the first time; sometimes you do get it right on the first try. Makes me hesitant to make quail again, because I will most certainly fuck it up next time.
At any rate, the simple caramelized flavors of the quail paired perfectly with Smitten Kitchen’s carrot salad, so I decided to go ahead and include it in the recipe.
Honey Roasted Quail over Harissa Carrot Salad
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (or to taste)
- 5 Quails (plucked, and cut up the middle so the breasts will flatten out some)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 large carrots (peeled and grated)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons harissa (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 6oz feta (crumbled)
- salt and pepper to taste
|Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prep your quail by using kitchen scissors to cut from the bottom of the breast, through the breastbone, about 3/4 of the way up. Press the quail down to flatten it. This may break the breastbone and that's okay. In a bowl, salt and pepper the quail then add the olive oil, honey and rosemary. Let them marinate as you make the carrot salad.|
|Peel and grate your carrots. In a large bowl combine the carrot, spices, lemon juice, honey, olive oil, mint and harissa and mix well. Crumble the feta over it and lightly toss.|
|On a foil or parchment lined pan, bake the quail for 10 minutes. Then, making sure your rack is set high, broil the quail at 450 degrees until they start to brown (3-5 minutes). Plate the carrot salad and place one or two quails artfully on top. If you need a little more teeth to your meal, serve with cous cous or rice.|
Non game substitution: You could totally do this with cornish game hens, though the cooking time will vary.