Quail Eggs. Too delightful…too delicate not to like.


quail eggs

quail eggs

I’ve been a giddy bird watcher for years.

Actually I started watching birds in perhaps an unlikely place. Not the mountains, or the shoreline, or at lakes or in woodlands, but in NYC. You’d be surprised. Central Park–that huge piece of greenery in the middle of uptown separating the West from the East (or the East from the West deepening on which side of town you live)–held an oasis of a party during migrating seasons. In spring and fall an Audubon-like atrium popped up in Central park and us bird watchers were enthralled.

At the boathouse (where you can rent a row boat and paddle on the park’s friendly duck-filled lake) a large, thick book was stored. Birdwatchers would note what they’d seen that day in the park. When you first arrived you’d check the book to see what you might want to look for and where (the rambles, the reservoir, near the carousel). Best part was when you had a new species to add to the list.

I never saw quail there. They have other habitats to haunt. But I do see quail eggs often at the K & S markets in Nashville. And I do harvest them from the refrigerated counter to carry home.

In addition to bird guides that tell you the size, feathers, call, mating habits, nest-shapes of every bird species, are also bird-egg guides. So if you come upon a nest with blue speckled eggs you’ll know Robins are percolating there. Quail eggs would make the “Top Ten Beautiful Bird Eggs” list. Ecru, sepia, tan eggs with spots of black and brown and amoeba-like designs. Inside the hard shell is a tiny replica of the hen’s egg.

My favorite way to cook them is sunny-side up. You get a tiny sunny-side up egg that tastes delicate and light. A little salt. And that’s it. I think of them as garnish. My favorite place to place the garnish is on asparagus.

roasted asparagus with sunny side up quail eggs

roasted asparagus with sunny-side up quail eggs

First: Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil. Lightly oil foil. Cut off woody ends of asparagus. Rinse under cool water. Lay them out on the sheet pan. Drizzle some olive oil. Season with salt & pepper. Roast until crisp-tender or your desired doneness. Just before serving sprinkle some grated parmigiano on top.

Meanwhile, get out a medium mixing bowl. If it has a lip for pouring all the better. But if not, no prob. Gently break each quail egg and gently drop the egg into the bowl. The pack I get at K & S has 10 eggs. Use them all. Now, I say “gently break” but it’s a combination of gently and earnestly. Quail egg shells tend to be harder than hen egg shells. Sometimes I even use a serrated knife to get the cut going then break the shell.

Heat a little olive oil in a large sauté pan. Then gently pour each egg yolk into the pan (it will naturally be accompanied by some egg white). You’ll see the little perfect sunny-side up eggs form quickly. Sprinkle with salt and spatula them out to top the asparagus. Hmmm-mmm!



Asparagus. Easy. With 3 Levels of Tasty.

Asparagus w 3 Flavors

Asparagus w 3 Flavors

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets nervous if there isn’t a green dish somewhere amongst the dinner menu. I need to have at least one dish that has green in it. Or a whole bowl of green all by itself. Broccoli rabe is my first go-to green. I love Swiss chard, too. String beans. Escarole. Dandelion. And even romaine for a salad.

Then there’s asparagus. What an unusual animal. No other green quite like it. A tall, completely edible (almost), stalk. Ever see how they grow? They rise from the earth like mini-skyscrapers (yet I’m sure they have no interest in going any higher than your knee and even that’s “stretching” it). And, yes, ancient people loved them, too. There’s a recipe for asparagus from Apicius (Roman Empire gourmand with a fondness for recording recipes…thank you!): “…immerse in boiling water backwards,” which reminds me there is even cookware made especially for cooking asparagus (I’ve never used any). Wikipedia just told me that Romans would even freeze asparagus up in the snowy Alps so they’d have plenty for the Feast of Epicurus (no, not the website).

I make asparagus a million different ways. They cook so fast so they pop up as the green at the table often. Here’s one way that gets you asparagus PLUS 3 flavors (1. garlic 2. lemon 3. parmigiano) all in one.

First: peel and slice (thinly) 3-4 cloves of garlic. Heat a little olive oil in a small sauté pan. Add the garlic slices. Sauté till they become deep brown. You’ll be doing what everyone always says “DON’T do.” Cooking garlic to dark brown. Trust me. It becomes chewy and yummy, not bitter. Lift garlic out of oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Don’t throw out the oil.

Rinse and dry a lemon. Cut lemon into 1/4-inch tiny pieces. Peel and all.

Line a sheet pan with foil and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus (or cut them all off in one fell swoop). Lay out the asparagus on the sheet pan in one layer.  Drizzle more olive oil (don’t forget the garlic oil). Sprinkle more salt. And a little pepper. Sprinkle lemon pieces.

Roast in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until tender or crisp-tender. Transfer asparagus and lemon pieces to serving plate and sprinkle golden garlic. Toss to combine. Add a dusting of about 1/4 cup of grated parmigiano.

Oh. Yeah. Enjoy.

About 15 minutes later witness the great mystery that’s been observed since early man. Asparagus pea (yes, I just spelled that wrong. Just couldn’t say the other word around food).

Roman Peas w Asparagus & Pancetta Recipe

Roman Peas & Asparagus

Roman Peas & Asparagus

Ahhh. A simple but luscious vegetable dish from Rome. Roman Peas with Asparagus & Pancetta. So easy to make and so satisfying.

Slice a medium onion into thin half-moons. Saute in a little olive oil. Add diced pancetta (from about 3 thick slices) and saute till they cook through and onions soften. Add asparagus that has been cut into bite-sized pieces. Cook about 3-4 minutes. Add peas, cook till simmering. Add about a 1/4 cup of white wine. Cook till evaporating. Season with salt & pepper.

Easy. All these flavors come together creating a palate piazza where your taste buds congregate on their Roman passagiata and say: “Che Buono!”

Roman Peas and Asparagus