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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nigel's Five Spice Quail

Some interest in the five spice quail consumed (absolutely) whilst in Texas.

Would be an honour to claim this as my own but it's a riff on one of Nigel Slater's.  If you haven't read any of his pieces (many) for The Observer please do so.  While you are at it, pick up a copy of The Kitchen Diaries.  Just lovely words on food....

5 Spice Quail

1 large clove garlic (you know not to use the ones with the green bit right?)
1 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder
The juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 quail (game hens can be substituted)
Sea or Kosher salt

Grab a decent sized bowl.  Peel and smash garlic.  Stir in lemon juice, oil, cayenne, and five spice powder.  Apply a good pinch of salt (more like two good ones).  Coat quail with seasoning mix.  Be sure to coat evenly but gently.  Put in the fridge/cooler for a couple of hours and forget about them.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chuck birds and juices into a roasting pan.  Not too big but you don't want them to touch either.  Roast 20-25 minutes turning once.  Birds should look dark and a bit crispy when finished.  Serve with a lemon and some good chunky bread for the juices.

Quite a few beers are good with these birds.  The salty, sweet, spicy stickiness of the flesh is a great pairing with everything from Tsing Tao to the less exotic Shiner.  Johnny Walker Blue....not so good.

Four birds leaves two wanting a bit more.  Three each would be too much.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A White Lincoln, A Lemon Meringue Pie, and a room at the 4 seasons

I have been in Houston less than an hour and already am lip searingly deep into a bowl of crawfish.  I also have a white Lincoln sitting in the parking lot.

  Jimmy G's isn't much to look at.... It could easily be mistaken for the restaurant of a midwestern Sheraton.  Walk in, sit at the bar and order something achingly cold, you'll want/need it.  Lean over the stainless counter and see if there is anything crawling out of the coolers.

I've had two helpings of crawfish.  I can't feel my lips, my hair is damp, my shirt is a bit of a mess (Hoback), the boiled shrimp- while good-are only a temporary abatement of the heat.  I pay up and continue to use a lemon wedge to clean my fingers.  A Coke for the road merely spreads the pain around all of my taste buds.

Outside the dark restaurant, the air is surprisingly crisp for Houston. Taking gulps of air against my swollen tongue I stride toward the Lincoln.  Not sure why the rental place gave me this.  It looks to have been absconded from their Boca kiosk.  I decide to embrace it...

An hour later and I'm somewhere off  59.  I look beside me at the two teetering, messy lemon meringues I have purloined from the fridge over at Hinze's.  They look as if constructed by a mental patient.  There is also about 4 pounds of brisket in the back seat.  If I had purchased a stained and wrinkled paper bag of crackling and decided to start smoking again I might be in the running for the most unhealthy car in Texas.  There's also a 6 pack of  Shiner on the floorboard.

Turning the crawfish scented wheel I push the massive flat hood towards the first of many Texas farm roads.  I dig in deeper still as Townes Van Zandt eases from the speakers- Talking about "bad news from Houston". I roll the windows down and press the accelerator.  As expected the car drifts and buffets on the blacktop.  A Hispanic family in a pockmarked and faded blue Scout pull to the shoulder and wave me by.  The road becomes broken, and then dusty.  I am close.

  I look at the pies and feel a bit like Boss Hog as the dust behind me plumes out and up into the wind.  Before I even hit the turnoff, and the first in a succession of cattle guards, I feel that I could do this forever.  The sky is blue, cloudy, and then threatening. The landscape is greening, and the live oaks and mesquites have that parched, biblical look even as they show the colours of early summer..  I'm listening to Townes full time now and try to keep up with the fast talking of "Mr Gold and Mr.  Mud".

By the time I hit the bunk house the Lincoln is grey with dust and one of the meringue's foamy peaks has broken loose from its moorings. As I pull into the yard GP and one of his hands, "Jefe", look up from the tractor they are working on. I open the door and at once the dogs are on me.  Ranch dogs of all types seem to spill towards the car- no doubt drawn by the pull of crawfish, brisket, and the unmistakable scent of fresh blood...

Hours later and around a fire hoop we finish the last of the wine from GP's home country of Argentina.  We have looked at his cattle, shot over & unders, talked about his wife's trip to Dallas, and re-lived many days spent on and around grand rivers.  I finish off the last of my five spice quail and settle back next to a blue eyed dog.  Segovia streams from the open window and we open the Scotch as Jefe tells about their recurring problem with Boar.

Sleep comes so damn easy.....