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Quail Carbonara Recipe

A rich, delicious Italian dish that pairs perfectly with cured upland game.

Quail Carbonara Recipe

This quail carbonara recipe results in something very special and rich, and is guaranteed to impress your dinner guests. (Photo By: Jack Hennessy)

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You can use any upland game for this recipe, and you can use more than the eight ounces I call for in this recipe. Chopping the upland game into small bits—approximately 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch—also facilitates picking out shot, making this wild game dish ideal for both kids and any dinner guests who have yet to learn to “chew slowly.”

Likely the biggest error folks make here is over- or under-cooking the eggs. I have what I consider a foolproof method for avoiding this: Heat a large stainless bowl with fresh-from-the-stove hot pasta water, then discard that water (saving a little in separate container) and warm your egg mix—which should sit out at room temp for an hour—in that hot, stainless-steel bowl to avoid turning those eggs into a scrambled, overcooked mess.


Your cheese choice will play a large role in the quality of the meal, so invest in high-end cheese wedges and a cheese grater—don’t pick up the pre-shredded stuff, if possible. Coarse, freshly cracked black pepper is also nice to top off this dish.

Lastly, you want to crisp up your quail to mimic the texture of pancetta or bacon. You want the meat dry for a great sear, and your stove burner should be on medium to high heat with a thin layer of high-heat oil in the skillet. Do not crowd the pan, as a crowded pan releases steam and softens the exterior of meat. Because we are curing the quail, it will have that hint of cured flavor akin to pancetta and bacon.

quail carbonara recipe
The author has a foolproof method for perfectly cooked eggs included in this scrumptious quail carbonara recipe. (Photo By: Jack Hennessy)

Serves: 4 portions
Prep Time: 75 minutes (plus overnight)
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless quail, cured and deboned, approximately 8 ounces
  • 1-gallon cold water
  • 1 teaspoon Insta Cure #1
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1⁄3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus more freshly shredded for topping
  • 1⁄3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus more freshly shredded for topping
  • 1½ tablespoon freshly minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Sunflower or another high-heat cooking oil (or bacon grease)
  • Freshly cracked black peppercorn (as coarse as possible)

Preparation Directions:

  1. In a large pot, add 1 quart of cold water and 1 teaspoon Insta Cure #1.
  2. Bring to a simmer and stir until Insta Cure #1 dissolves in water.
  3. Add 3 quarts cold water to cool and place in fridge.
  4. Add skinless quail once water is cool. Brine for 18 to 24 hours. Do not rinse upon removal.
  5. Upon removing quail, debone and cut into bits (approximately 1/4-inch cubes).
  6. Pat dry and place in fridge to continue to dry until ready to cook (dry meat leads to a better sear).
  7. An hour prior to cooking quail and pasta, in a large bowl, add two eggs and the yolk from two other eggs.
  8. Add 1/3 cup each of Parmesan and Romano, along with freshly minced garlic and a healthy dose of freshly cracked black pepper (at least 1 tablespoon).
  9. Add kosher salt, mix, and set aside at room temp.


Cooking Directions:

  1. To cook quail, heat a thin layer of sunflower oil (or similar high-heat oil) in a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. Do not crowd skillet when cooking (skillet should never be more than half full) and adequately sear all quail for crisp texture. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot, boil water with olive oil and kosher salt. Prior to adding pasta, have a large stainless-steel bowl underneath your colander for when you drain pasta.
  3. Cook spaghetti to al dente.
  4. Drain in colander so hot water drains into large stainless-steel bowl.
  5. Remove colander and allow hot water to warm bowl for 30 seconds.
  6. Pour half cup pasta water into separate container and discard the rest of water so the large stainless-steel bowl is empty, but still warm.
  7. Add egg mix and lightly stir around bowl.
  8. Add spaghetti and cooked quail to bowl and lightly mix all ingredients together.
  9. Add ¼- to ½-cup pasta water back into the bowl.
  10. To serve, dish up pasta and shred fresh cheese over top. Crack an ample amount of coarse-ground black pepper over top and garnish with freshly minced flat-leaf Italian parsley (optional)
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