“Chicken takes the spotlight at Le Coq Rico,” state Michelin inspectors of the New York City branch of Antoine Westermann’s beloved Paris restaurant dedicated to all things bird.
As of this summer, chicken has to share the spotlight with Westermann’s latest fowl to grace the menu: quail.
Known for the brand's treatment towards heritage breeds, Westermann sources his quail from Long Island’s North Fork region—specifically, Feisty Acres Farm—where Bobwhite quails are native to the area. Westermann, who recently departed the NYC restaurant as chef but is still very much a shareholder, learned of Feisty Acres through the local greenmarket in Union Square. “It was a long process to source quail for the restaurant, as I was never able to find the right farm partner,” he explains. After further exploration on their website, Westermann made the trip out to Southold to check out the premises—something he does with every farm he works with (at least twice a year).
At Feisty Acres, farmers Abra Morawiec and Chris Pinto have been on a mission to reinvigorate this particular species back into the area, releasing some 200 to 300 adolescent quail each season. The duo pride themselves on educating the importance of preserving the habitat for these birds, as well as other game birds including the French guinea fowl, chukar partridge, Silkie chicken and Bourbon Red turkey.
“Our philosophies are very much aligned,” says Westermann. “Abra is so dynamic and passionate about her birds—so much so, that she even processes them herself on the farm.” Watching the two operate, as well as their respect for animal welfare, made Westermann want to bring quail into Le Coq Rico.
Executive chef Guillaume Ginther tried applying the same slow cooking technique for his chicken to the quail—but to no avail. "It dried it out," he says. "Now we poach it in the poultry broth to maintain its texture and flavor, then we pan-sear it to achieve a crispy exterior skin and finish by basting with butter." The finished product is presented on a "nest" of angel hair potatoes with a side of Le Coq Rico's famous poultry jus.
So far, it's been well received by diners. "Quail isn't something you see on menus very often," says Ginther. "As time has gone on, we see more and more guests ordering the quail." Keeping in line with the chicken dishes, Ginther says the best way to appreciate and showcase the true flavor of the bird is to keep things simple. "But I could also prepare quail by deboning the breast and confiting the legs," he adds.
Running through the high season, the quail dish is available at Le Coq Rico through December 30. "It's a small bird, but has very tasty meat," says Ginther. "It's a great option for guests who might want to try something new but don't want to commit to a whole bird—the quail is the perfect size for one!"
Hero image courtesy of Le Coq Rico.