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This week's French Garden recipe

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People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.

Quail with bitter orange sauce and thyme flowers (Cailles, sauce bigarade aux fleurs de farigoule)


For 4 servings:

4 fresh quail
2 tsp. flaked sea salt
1 tsp. peppercorns
2 tsp. dried thyme flowers or fresh thyme leaves
2 c. strong homemade chicken or veal broth
Stock vegetables: 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stalk celery with leaves, all sliced, 5 sprigs parsley, 3 thyme branches, 1 bay leaf
3 bitter oranges or 3 normal oranges plus one lemon
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
2 T. duck fat or butter
3 T bitter orange liqueur, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau
1 c. dry white wine

The day before, grind together the thyme, salt, and pepper and season the quail inside and out.  Wrap in baker's parchment and refrigerate.

The next day, peel the oranges using a potato peeler and leaving the white pith behind.  Slice the peel into julienne (very thin strips).  Bring a small pan of water to a boil.  Drop in the peels and drain after 10 seconds.  Refresh under cold running water.  Repeat 4 more times.

Juice the peeled oranges, plus the lemon if using, and reserve the juice.

In a small saucepan, boil together the sugar and water for 3 minutes.  Add the peels and boil for 10 seconds, remove from heat and steep 20 minutes.  Repeat two more times.  Remove the peels to a piece of baking parchment; reserve the syrup.

Combine the stock vegetables and herbs with chicken stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, cut the backbones and attached necks out of the quails with kitchen shears, and add the backs to the stock mixture.  Simmer for 30 minutes, strain and reserve the stock.

Place the quail skin side up on the work surface, folding the wingtips onto the upper side, and press down on the quail with your palm to flatten them.

Heat the butter or duck fat in a heavy skillet just large enough to hold the quail.  Saute the quail skin side down until deep golden brown, turn and saute five more minutes.  Remove to a plate and pour the fat out of the skillet. 

Return the quail to the skillet (off the heat) and pour over the orange liqueur.  Ignite and turn the quail in the flames, shaking the pan, until the flames are extinguished.  Remove the quail to the plate once more.

Deglaze the pan with wine and reduce to a few tablespoons.  Add the stock and reduce to about 1 1/2 cups.  Add 2 T. of the reserved syrup to the sauce, as well as the orange or orange-lemon juice to taste (about 1/4 c.)  Correct the seasoning with seasalt, white pepper, and pinches of thyme flowers.

Return the quail to the skillet and simmer them, turning frequently, in the sauce over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, until glazed.  If the sauce becomes too thick, thin with a little stock or water. 

Serve on hot plates, with the sauce spooned over and the candied rinds sprinkled in garnish.

Note:  Bitter oranges are available in specialty markets in winter.  They have thick, dimpled, highly flavorful skin, sour juice, and lots of seeds.  "Crapaudine" refers to this flattened way of preparing the bird, which makes it resemble a toad, or crapaud.  (NB This is also an excellent way to prepare birds for grilling. ) The delicate flavor of thyme flowers--especially provençal thyme or farigoule--marries wonderfully with the orange.  Use fresh thyme leaves as a substitute, but this spring, remember to cut bouquets of your thyme in flower for drying!


Products of Interest:
Thyme--Provence strain

Try some of our past French garden recipes:

Appetizers and small dishes


Beef, pork, lamb, and veal



Fish, shellfish, and crustaceans




Preserves, pickles, and other cupboard delicacies

Quick bites



Salads and small plates




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