Monday, July 25, 2011

grilled quail with "scorzanera" alla romana

Ed. note: You'll notice the title of this includes a word in quote marks for no apparent reason. This is a trick used in both menus and journalism to suggest that the word in quotes isn't actually true. Now you know.

"How many more dishes do we have to eat with weeds?"

I'm not saying who asked that question, but they might live here.

I'm not the only one in the house who isn't necessarily down with the bitter green thing. And this one called for quail, which I thought would also go over real well with the asker of that question, as that person may be predisposed to boneless, skinless white meat chicken. Quail is pretty much all dark meat.

So as an insurance policy that someone who liked bitter greens would be eating one of the bitter greens dishes, we invited our pal Lawrence over. He is an actual Italian, and loves bitter greens. And dark meat. So this would only go well.

Except for one thing. I was so busy being all smart and growing my own dandelion greens -- which you can buy in every store on the planet -- that I forgot to make sure I could get salsify somewhere. Remember "scorzanera" in the title? That's salsify.

Well, crap. I went to all my stores, a couple of produce stands and called a farm. I was most stunned and amazed when I called a fairly huge purveyor of, um, whole foods, and they didn't even know what salsify was. Not naming names here. It was then that I figured I better start looking for alternatives.

So I went to a site which suggests substitutions for ingredients. It suggested artichoke, asparagus or parsnip. Which immediately made me curious about this magical vegetable that would put those three things in the same sentence. I passed on the artichoke and asparagus, because they wouldn't look right. I considered the parsnip, because at least it was a white root vegetable, which, after you peel it, is what salsify is. I think. But when I got to the supermarket, they had white carrots. That sounded different, and looked like it would work. So I got them.

Here they are.

And here they are naked.

And this link goes to a picture of salsify. I'm calling this a win.

The other cool part about this dish was that the glaze for the quail -- aren't they cute all lined up up there? -- includes saba, which is a sweet grape syrup. The quail were quickly grilled and glazed, then put on top of the what we are now calling carota bianco alla romana and greens. The quail were amazing, the sweet glaze playing well with the liver-y nature of the meat. Also, that sweet glaze was the antidote for the bitter greens. Total success.

Up next: baccala mezzaluna

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