The guy I buy arugula from at our market has a neighbor who raises quail and he brings a few dozen of the eggs each week to sell for his neighbor. I got a batch of each not too long ago (he grows lettuce under plastic well into December). I’ve scarcely touched quail eggs. A couple times in culinary school (garde manger, quail egg and caviar pizza). But they were not something I thought much about. That’s changed.
If they’re available to you (I’m told you can often find them at Asian markets) they’re a lot of fun, special because of their size, and easy to work with.
They make an impressive canapé. This is a take on eggs Benedict: arugula sautéed with shallot, bacon, English muffin croutons, topped with a little fried quail egg with fleur de sel, served on a spoon, one bite. So good. I could have eaten ten of these. It would be an easy first bite or canapé for a party. Have everything cooked and warm except for the eggs. Lay out yours spoons. One person puts together the spoon appareil, the setup, while you sauté the eggs very gently over low heat in a little butter.
But really, you could simply serve these on toast points with a little butter, salt and pepper and they’d be delicious. If you’re doing a lot of them, poach them, shock them and reheat as needed (which is how Keller did it at the French Laundry, just reheated in a little butter, threw in some brunoised bell pepper for color).
The Hollandaise deserves special note. I needed just a little a couple ounces. How was I to find a recipe for just a little bit of Hollandaise? Ah ah! I didn’t need one because I had my trusty iPhone in my pocket with the awesome new Ratio app (IMHO) I simply went to “Fat-based sauces,” tapped “Hollandaise,” typed in “.5 ounces yolk,” et voila! 2.5 ounces butter, and .5 ounces of liquid (I actually did make a little reduction but you could just use lemon juice), .5 ounces yolk. Worked like a charm, though with a single small yolk, it was tricky to cook without overcooking so little yolk. (I could have plugged in 2 ounces of butter, which would have recommended .4 ounces of yolk, which I could change to grams, about 11, but I would have needed a really tiny pan and even tinier whisk.)
When working with quail eggs, it helps to crack the eggs into a ramekin first to make the cooking more orderly, but you could crack them right into the pan.
Quail eggs have a lovely flavor, a little richer than chicken eggs. You could hard boil them for a nifty garnish, but they’re a pain to peel, especially if they’re fresh. You could scramble them, but that kind of takes the fun out of the way they look. Their size is what’s special. I also made this same dish with two eggs on a half an English muffin, perfect light breakfast or fun starter course.
I’m told by a facebook friend that each bird lays identically patterned eggs. Can this be true? Also, I’d love to hear other ideas for putting these cool little eggs to use.