Pan-roasted Quail with Black Fig/Bacon Demi-glace over Piccolo Farrotto

Pastured quail from Bandera, Texas are dry-brined with sea salt containing sage, rosemary and black pepper, then allowed to air dry in the refrigerator for two hours.  The quail is quickly pan-roasted in a small spoonful each of rendered bacon fat and rendered chicken fat until the skin is crisp and the flesh is slightly pink.  Served over a bed of stock-simmered farro with roasted vegetables, and topped with a chicken demi-glace with black figs, bacon and roasted spring onion..

Pan-roasted Quail with Black Fig/Bacon Demi-glace over Piccolo Farrotto

For the Sauce (about 1 cup)

1-1/2 cups rich, homemade chicken stock, divided
2 tablespoons roasted chicken demi-glace
1/3 cup black figs, trimmed and quartered
4 pieces thick cut, smoked bacon
roasted spring onions (from the Farro recipe), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon pan drippings (from the quail)
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, stripped and bruised

Heat the chicken stock in a skillet over medium-low heat until simmering.  Add the demi-glace, stir to combine and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and cook until nicely browned.  Transfer bacon to the side to drain, reserving the bacon fat for the next recipe.

Just before service, add the bacon, figs, rosemary and onion and allow to heat through, about 5 minutes.

For the Piccolo Farrotto (adapted from a recipe by Anson Mills)

1 cup farro piccolo
1 quart rich, homemade chicken stock
2-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
2 stalks fresh celery
4 small, fresh carrots, trimmed
2 small spring onions, trimmed (reserved)
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Roast the carrots, celery and onion in a 375 degree oven until browned, about 45 minutes. Set aside.

Turn the farro into a food processor and give it ten 1-second pulses to crack some of the bran that encases the grains. Transfer it to a small bowl.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and keep the stock just below a simmer as you cook the farro.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 3- or 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the minced shallots and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the farro, increase the heat to medium, and stir until the grains are hot and coated with butter, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced to a glaze. Add the bay leaf and 1 cup of hot chicken stock and stir once to make sure the grains are covered with liquid. Cook the farro uncovered at the barest simmer; when the liquid has been almost entirely absorbed and the farro begins to look dry, add about 1/2 cup of hot stock, stir once, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the farro once again begins to look dry. Continue to cook the farro in this fashion for 1 hour. Coarsley chop and stir in the celery and carrot and continue to cook, adding stock as needed, until the grains have expanded and are tender throughout, without hard, starchy centers, about 20 minutes longer.

Stir in the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. The farrotto should look creamy, not wet or soupy. Taste for seasoning, stir in the parsley, and serve immediately.

For the Quail (serves 4-6)

12 skin-on, boneless quail breasts
2 tablespoons more-or-less sea salt, black pepper and aromatics such as rosemary and sage
2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat

Season the quail on all sides with the salt mixture then place skin-side up on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Remove from refrigerator and allow to stand 20 minutes at room temperature.

Heat the bacon and chicken fats over medium in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Blot the quail breasts dry, then place into the skillet skin-side down without crowding. You may need to do this in batches.  Allow to cook until nicely browned, then turn and cook until almost medium doneness.

To assemble

Spoon piccolo farroto onto dinner plates and arrange quail breasts on top (2-3 per person, depending).  Spoon demi-glace over the top, garnish with a piece of rosemary and serve piping hot.