Thursday, June 2, 2011

Spatchcocks and chickens and quails, oh my!

In my mind, game birds are still pretty exotic eating. While chicken is commonly a go-to meat for convenience and versatility, the likes of quail, duck and spatchcock still excite me on restaurant menus and instil fear in me in the kitchen.

David Bitton (left) and Karl Fraser at the Game Farm Tasting and Blogger Event,
Bitton Gourmet Café and Grocer, Copeland Street, Alexandria
Invited along to a Game Farm tasting event, not only was I going to taste various game meat canapes prepared by David Bitton but I was also going to learn a thing or two about game birds, including how to debone one.

The event, held at Bitton Gourmet Café and Grocer, featured some nifty butterflying and deboning by Karl Fraser, a director of Game Farm which has its farm gate up north in Galston, in the Upper Hunter Valley region.

Game Farm demonstration
Game Farm has been around since 1975 and has become the largest multi-species game bird producer in the Southern Hemisphere, specialising in the breeding and processing of game birds.

Early supporter and proponent, Tetsuya Wakuda even appears in some of the marketing materials, and to this day, he still sources much of his game meat from Game Farm - to exacting standards, of course.

Deboning a chicken/spatchcock
I have butterflied poultry before - which is actually surprisingly easy and speeds up cooking time. I've never quite dared to debone something although my excuse is that meat tastes better on the bone anyway.

But Fraser shows us how in several steps that look natural and intuitive to him, but a little perplexing to me. A sharp knife is critical, as are clean cuts. Deboning is ideal for ease of eating and especially rolled dishes like a ballotine, which I think is a liitle fancy for my home kitchen, but nonetheless, I'll give it a go soon.

Cuts of quail (quail tulips, centre)
Aside from roasting whole quails, other options for cuts include butterflied whole birds and halves, marylands and breast medallions, and cutest of all, quail "tulips" or "lollipops" - frenched drumstick and thigh sections with the thigh flesh rolled back around the bone to form the lollipop.

Duck salad with witlof, endive and walnut
(Photo courtesy of DEC Communications)
The canapes had started before the demonstration for all to see where all that hard work was going. The medium-rare duck breast canape was a pretty pink and yellow-green sight, the nutty salad partnering well with the juicy meat; although the whole thing had to be devoured in the one un-lady-like mouthful.

Ballotine of spatchcock, spinach, goat's cheese and black olive tapenade
This was one of my favourite tastes of the night - perched on a little round of bread, the rolled spatchock had a creamy centre of spinach, goat's cheese and tapenade - the saltiness of the latter two perfectly seasoning the golden skinned bird roll.

Corn fed chicken confit on brioche with tomato chutney
Another poultry round on a bit of buttery bread was the confit chicken, the flesh cooked to a tin tuna-like texture. Whilst well flavoured along with the zingy tomato chutney and chives, it wasn't a texture of chicken I really enjoy (though I admit I haven't tried that chicken in a can stuff).

Glazed quail with spiced apple stir fry
The curious combination of quail and apple drew me right in to the breast medallions sitting daintily on cooked apple pieces. The spicing was spot on with just a touch of chilli oil, tempered by the sweet, yielding apple.

Ecstatically, I find that this recipe is in David Bitton's cookbook Bitton: A French Inspired Café Cookbook, which we've been gifted with, along with Bitton's Asian Dressing which is also in the recipe.

Duck consomme in the kitchen
The duck consomme is served on its lonesome in a glass to highlight the pure gorgeousness of flavours. It was really like warm liquid duck in a glass seasoned with herbs and little else, and simply stunning.

Orange caramelised quail legs
We were lucky enough to sneak into the Bitton kitchen to see the chefs cooking up the quail legs, and were conveniently able to turn our heads the other way when the butter was added to the pan - I won't say quite how much.

But the shiny, caramelised end product, lightened with a good helping of orange, made it all worthwhile. With the bone in, I delight in nibbling the flesh off the thin bones and sucking up every bit of (buttery) flavour.

Petite coffee and vanilla créme brulee
I was almost hoping to see some game meat in the dessert, but the crunchy topped créme brulee was as good a consolation as they come. While the coffee flavour must have been particularly subtle if it was there at all, the creamy, smooth custard spiked with vanilla bean was a perfect, rich end to the night.

And with many thanks to Game Farm, we walked out of Bitton Gourmet Café and Grocer lugging sample bags of products: duck, spatchcock, chicken and quail - to practice deboning to our hearts' content.

Barbequed Game Farm duck breast
Well, I havent quite mastered it yet, but of course picked the low-hanging fruit first; that is, the easy duck breast - marinated then barbequed and sliced, eaten in a quasi Peking duck style.

We probably should have rendered the fat beneath the skin a little longer, but it was nonetheless a juicy, meaty cut.

Barbequed Game Farm quail halves
I think barbequing the quail was also a good idea despite the difficult shape and different cooking times for the breast and leg. Which is probably how it resulted in some pretty serious charring, but all the more flavour for nifty fingers and chewing to get to.

Keep an eye out for some game recipes and cooking attempts to come.

Thanks to Game Farm, DEC Communications and Bitton Gourmet Café and Grocer for the tasting and blogger event.

Bitton Gourmet Cafe on Urbanspoon


Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

I don't think I've eaten many game birds other than pigeon and quail... have had the odd spatchcook. Hmm quail lollipops, I like the sound of that! The quail drumsticks have always been my favourite part of that bird =)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Looks like you had a lot of fun at the event! I've never cooked as much quail as I have lately lol

Flights Search said...

So Beautiful and tempting! Now, I’m hungry..every time that i look at the picture, I really wanna take a flight to Sydney and go to Bitton Gourmet Cafe & Grocer

Richard Elliot said...

Looks like a great evening!

sugarpuffi said...

everything looks delish! so lucky u got an invite :D

chopinandmysaucepan said...

Those BBQ quail halves look pretty awesome. Need to do something about the 'cuck' breasts tho :) :)

Anonymous said...

All those meats look so juicy and tender! David Bitton is so humble, he always meets and greets around brunch.

Tina said...

Hi Angie - The drumsticks are great, but I do like the miniscule wings too!

Hi Lorraine - Me too. Spatchcock too :)

Hi Richard - It was a lovely night, backed up by sparkling wine :)

Hi sugarpuffi - The canapes were all so lovely :)

Hi chopinandmysaucepan - Thanks :)

Hi minibites - He's quite the character :)

Dolly said...

the creme brulee looks yummii

i've never had endive before .. wonder what it tastes like XD

Tina said...

Hi Dolly - I'd say it's much like lettuce; maybe a little more bitter...

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

Nawww, so this is what I missed out on by being sick! Looks like a fun, yummy AND educational evening though - I'm like you, I rarely cook game meats at home and tend to enjoy them out when I spot them a menu.

Tina said...

Hi mademoiselle délicieuse - Aww, shame you were sick. The night really revealed the breadth of game and lots of ideas on what to do with it.


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