Slightly gamier and darker than chicken, quail is here complemented by bitter olives.
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes, plus 4 hours’ marinating
8 whole quail, butterflied and flattened
Salt and black pepper
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
20 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup hearty red wine
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 ounce pancetta, minced
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup niçoise olives
2 teaspoons black olive tapenade
1. Place quail in large bowl, season with salt and pepper and scatter with half the garlic and 16 sprigs thyme. Pour wine and 4 tablespoons olive oil over, cover and refrigerate 4 hours.
2. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add 1½ teaspoons salt. Place cornmeal in sandwich bag and seal. Snip off one tiny corner of bag. Pour cornmeal into water in a thin stream from opening in bag, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, 25 minutes. Oil an 8-inch-square baking pan. Evenly spread in cooked polenta and set aside to firm.
3. Light grill. Remove quail from marinade, reserving marinade. Leave thyme and garlic bits clinging to quail. Remove polenta from pan, cut in four, then cut each piece on diagonal to make 8 triangles.
4. In a skillet, heat remaining oil. Add remaining garlic and the pancetta and sauté until golden. Add stock and reserved marinade and cook 5 minutes. Add olives, tapenade and leaves from remaining thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Heat to a simmer, then remove from heat.
5. Grill polenta triangles 3 minutes a side. Remove to a platter and keep warm. Grill quail skin side down about 3 minutes, until browned, turn and grill 5 to 8 minutes, until breast meat is medium. Arrange quail on platter, reheat sauce and spoon over quail and polenta. Serve.