Birds in a pie. Double-crust or deep-dish.
Bringing to mind the nursery rhyme, serving birds in a pie is an unexpected presentation for quail, squab, or Rock Cornish game hens. Besides hiding the surprise, the pastry cover provides a steamy atmosphere that keeps the birds and surrounding vegetables tender and succulent.
Shown above, eight butter-browned quail nest with spinach, sauteed carrots, and onions in pie crust. You serve the baked pie with a sherry cream sauce.
In the deep-dish pie (next page), four squab or Rock Cornish game hens, cut into halves, snuggle under puff pastry with chunks of winter vegetables and a sour cream sauce.
Rock Cornish game hens are readily available frozen; squab and quail, fresh or frozen, are becoming commoner in poultry sections of supermarkets. Or you can order the birds through a meat department. Prices vary considerably, so check around.
When you serve either pie, supply guests with plenty of napkins and suggest the option of eating the birds by hand. Complete the meal with a robust red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignor or Merlot, a salad of mixed greens with a mustard dressing, and a cool, rich dessert such as chocolate mousse or gelato (Italian ice cream).
1 pound spinach
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
8 quail (about 3 oz. each), rinsed
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound small mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Pastry for a double crust 10-inch pie or mix for 3 crusts, 9-inch size
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup dry sherry
Wash spinach, discarding roots and yellow leaves. Put damp spinach in a 12- to 14-inch frying pan on medium-high heat; cover and cook, stirring once, until spinach wilts. When cool, squeeze excess moisture from spinach with your hands.
Wipe frying pan clean; add 2 tablespoons of the butter and melt on medium-high heat. Add quail and cook, turning frequently until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Lift out quail. (If done ahead, cover and refrigerate as long as overnight; let warm to room temperature before proceeding.)
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in pan; add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring, until onion is soft. Add the mush-rooms and cook, stirring 1 minute. Stir in the flour and cook until bubbly; set aside.
On a floured board, roll half the pastry into a round about 4 inches larger in diameter than a 10- or 11-inch pie pan or dish. Line pan with pastry; trim edges to 1 inch beyond rim. Spoon onion-carrot mixture into pastry; top with spinach. Arrange quail on spinach, breasts up and legs towards edge of dish.
Roll remaining pastry on a floured board into a round that is at least 3 inches larger in diameter than pan. Drape over quail, allowing legs to pop through; crimp edges of pastry to seal. Brush top with egg-water mixture. Bake pie, uncovered, on the lowest rack of a 400| oven until richly browned, about 30 minutes.
Combine whipping cream and sherry in an 8- to 10-inch frying pan; boil rapidly until reduced to 3/4 cup; keep warm. Cut pie between birds into 8 pieces. Spoon sherry sauce over portions. Serves 8.
Deep Dish Squab Pie
1 pound small onions (1 1/2-in. size), peeled
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 pound thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed (1-in. diameter or cut into 1-in. pieces)
1 box (17 oz.) frozen puff pastry
4 squab or Rock Cornish game hens (12 to 24 oz. each), rinsed
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup gin or regular-strength beef broth
3 cups regular-strength beef broth
3/4 teaspoon dry rosemary leaves Pepper
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) peas
Bring 1 inch water to boiling in a 4- to 5-quart pan. Set a steaming rack over water; arrange onions, carrots, and potatoes on rack. Cover pan and cook over gently boiling water until vegetables are tender when pierced, about 15 minutes; set aside. Also, let puff pastry stand at room temperature 20 minutes.
Cut birds in half lengthwise with poultry shears or a sharp knife and mallet. Melt butter in a 12- to 14-inch frying pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 the bird pieces at a time and cook, turning frequently, until squab breast is firm but slightly pink when cut (15 to 20 minutes), or game hens are no longer pink when cut near thigh joint (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat; lift birds from pan.
Blend sour cream and cornstarch; stir into pan juices. Slowly stir in gin and broth; add rosemary. On high heat, stir saucc until boiling and thickened. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Combine the onions, carrots, potatoes, and peas in a 4- to 5-quart casserole; arrange birds on top. Pour sauce around birds in casserole.
Unwarp pastry sheets and pinch together at seams to form one large sheet; roll out on a lightly floured board until 2 inches wider and longer than casserole. Lay pastry over filling and trim so it extends 1 inch beyond the rim; moisten edges of pastry and press to rim. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes.
Bake the pie, uncovered, in a 400| oven until the crust is richly browned, 30 to 35 minutes.
To serve, break pastry with a spoon and place on dinner plates. Alongside, serve squab, vegetables, and sauce. Serves 8.
Photo: In spoke-like fashion, arrange whole quail on vegetables in a pastry-lined dish
Photo: Legs of roasted quail peek out through double-crust pie and guide you for serving; cut between the birds to make eight portions
Photo: Roll out cold puff pastry to fit over top of casserole filled with squab halves, vegetable chunks, and sour cream sauce
Photo: Billowy puff pastry conceals birds in a pie. Cut pastry into individual portions, then spoon squab and vegetable filling alongside
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|Date:||Mar 1, 1984|
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