Ok. Please don’t freak out about the quail. Not everyone can debone a quail, and if that includes you…use chicken! This dish was originally made very famous amongst the dinner party divas of the 70′s and 80′s after it reached its fame in the cookbook The Silver Palate. I like taking things to another level, so I used quail…but seriously folks…the reason why I love this dish, and you will too…is that you just basically combine the unctuous decadent flavours of Marbella and let it do the work for you overnight. Bake, and serve. One pot…flashy food, and dinner party ready.
Marbella is a city and municipality in southern Spain, in the autonomous community of Andalusia (ever tried Andalusian soup? It’s a cold soup (gazpacho) made with milk, almonds and garlic…Mmm). It is part of the region of the Costa del Sol on the Mediterranean Sea, between Málaga and the Gibralter Strait and so you can see why the traditional cuisine of Marbella is based on seafood. The most typical dish is fried fish, using anchovies, mackerel, mullet or squid, amongst others so you can see where the heady mix of sweet prunes, salty anchovies and tangy green olives are born from. Hence, the fusion flavours created the original version, which is the Chicken Marbella.
Here I’ve cooked quail, because I feel it plates up more succinctly. One quail per plate, sitting on a mould of Cous Cous. I use the extra juices of the dish and prepare cous cous- by first frying finely diced shallot and garlic with the ground roots of the coriander you’ve just used in the Marbella…and then prepare your cous cous adding the amount of liquid from your dish as per the directions. Using a mould, place it in the center of the dish, lay the quail on top, an voila! A smoke’n mirrors dinner party meal, all prepared the day earlier!
I also adore this dish because it was what got me past round 2 of the Masterchef Australia 2012 auditions. After my initial application was accepted (round 1) , I had to present a pre-prepared dish which had to be all about flavour. This dish was everything and more and its what got me past the taste buds of our very famous and much loved Australian chef, Janelle Bloom. Seriously, you must try this. You prepare it the day before, and dinner couldn’t be easier!
6 quail, tunnel boned (or substitute with 2 chickens, cut into pieces)
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted good quality Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped (I don’t measure the herbs. I go by colour, and I often use 1/4 cup of each herb, easy!)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees (170 fan forced).
In a deep bowl or tray, combine the deboned quail (or chicken pieces), garlic, oregano, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves and add your coarse salt to taste. Use an even mix of the ingredients to stuff the cavity of the quail to allow flavours to infuse through, and for the poultry to hold their shape while marinating. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning the quail in its marinade once or twice.
Arrange the quail (or chicken) in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan (I use my lasagna dish). Gently pour the marinade evenly over the quail, sprinkle with brown sugar and then pour the white wine around it.
Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes for quail, basting frequently with pan juices. Quail can easily be overcooked so check frequently. The flesh shold be a light pink colour, but juices should still be clear when pierced. With a slotted spoon transfer the quail, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat, or use it to make the cous cous that I think goes so beautifully with this dish. The cous cous really adds a safe, neautral base combined with the strong flavours of the marinade.
This dish can be enjoyed either hot from the oven (allow to rest for 10 minutes beforehand) or at room temperature. So…think easy BBQ, or a Romantic Picnic set to impress!