Make Mine Mini

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

I’ve had quail eggs many times in fancy restaurants and I do like them, but I never thought about cooking them at home. That is, until I was overnighted six cartons of these tiny speckled beauties from Manchester Farms of South Carolina.

At last fall’s Les Dames d’Escoffier Conference in Charleston, we all received a pair of nifty quail scissors from the quail farm (it snips off the top of the egg so you don’t have to deal with cracking these miniscule gems with clumsy fingers). The gift included an offer of quail eggs to put the scissors to use.

I came across the forgotten scissors when I cleaned my utensil drawer recently, and on the chance that the offer was still good, I emailed to ask, and promptly received my special stash.

Founded in 1974, Manchester Farms is the oldest quail producer in the U.S. It is family owned, and run by the second generation of quail farmers. Originally sold exclusively to restaurants and chefs, the company now has a retail operation as well.

You can do to quail eggs whatever you do with hen eggs, of course—fry, poach, scramble or boil. But showing off their adorable miniature size is their special appeal.

How to Boil Quail Eggs
Add enough water into a pot to be able to cover quail eggs by a couple of inches. Bring water to a rolling boil. Add ¼ teaspoon baking soda or a capful of white vinegar to the water. This will help remove the membrane between the shell and egg, to make peeling easier.

Bring the water to a simmer. Put as many eggs as will fill a ladle in one layer and lower it into the simmering water till it touches bottom. Tip the ladle gently to allow eggs to slide into the water. Repeat until all eggs are in the pot.

Boil eggs for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice and water. When the eggs are done, drain them and place them immediately into the ice bath; let them sit for 2 to 3 minutes. Peel the eggs by rolling them on the countertop, then pinching the bottom of the egg (where the air sac is). Eggs should peel easily. – Instructions adapted from Manchester Farms.

Two Recipes for Boiled Quail Eggs
While I’ve given you recipes below, these usage ideas are so easy, you really don’t need a recipe for either.

The first showcases the tiny size of quail eggs by pairing them with another miniature, cherry tomatoes, to make a bite-size version of the Provençale classic, Salade Niçoise.

The second is a simple deviled egg using Middle Eastern herbs and spices for a flavor change.

Salade Niçoise Bites
3 to 6 slices firm white bread
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing on bread
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Canned solid pack tuna
12 crosswise slices hard-boiled quail eggs
6 cherry tomato wedges
6 slices Kalamata olives
12 thin crosswise slices from a small shallot
12 capers
6 tiny basil leaves

Heat oven to 350°F. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut circles from bread. Brush both sides of each circle lightly with olive oil. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake about 3 minutes on each side until lightly golden. Watch carefully to prevent burning. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wine vinegar. Season with salt (about 1/8 teaspoon) and pepper.

With clean fingers, break apart tuna, keeping small chunks intact. You’ll need about a tablespoon for each serving; cover and refrigerate the remainder for another use. Toss the separated chunks gently in the oil and vinegar mixture to coat.

To assemble appetizers, place one piece of toast on serving plate. Arrange 1/6th of the tuna on toast. Arrange 2 egg slices, 1 tomato wedge, 1 olive slice, 2 shallot slices, 2 capers and a basil leaf over the tuna. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Repeat with remaining toasts. Serve immediately. Makes 6 appetizers.

Notes:

  • Instead of toast, you can use crostini made from a baguette.
  • If you like anchovies, add a tiny sliver to this appetizer for a more authentic Salade Niçoise.
  • Be sure to use good-quality canned tuna for this dish. If your tuna is packed in olive oil you can drain that oil and use it in place of the 1 tablespoon olive oil to make the oil and vinegar dressing for the tuna.

Quail Deviled Eggs
15 hard-boiled quail eggs, peeled
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon za’atar (Middle Eastern herb blend)
About ¼ teaspoon salt
Aleppo pepper for garnish

Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, cut eggs in half lengthwise. Scoop out the yolks into a small bowl. Add mayonnaise and za’atar and season with salt. Mash the yolks with a fork and stir to combine all ingredients. Fill the whites with the yolk mixture using a small spoon. Or spoon filling into a plastic sandwich bag, cut one corner of the bag, and squeeze filling into the egg white. Add a pinch of Aleppo pepper to garnish.

Makes 30 bite-size deviled eggs.

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Posted: Jul 15th by Sandy_Hu