Quaglie alla Cacciatora

From the 1st to the 5 th centuries after christ… we find ourselves knee deep in the Roman empire. From the reigns of Augusto to Flavio Romulus Augusto- a 500 year arc- Rome was enjoying a glorious period of winning wars and conquering foreign lands… and they were eating like Kings too.

Well the Caesar’s (Roman kings) were eating well.
There were three meals served throughout the day: ‘ientaculum’ a hearty breakfast that was served around 8 A.M. usually there was focaccia bread served with oil, salt and wine, milk and honey, dried fruit and cheese. Midday “prandium” was served. This was a fast and light lunch where they ate bowls full of legumes, olives, figs, anchovies and sheep or goats cheese. This meal was usually finished off with a glass of hot wine or with “piperatum” a drink similar to a hot cider made from wine, hot water, pepper, honey and spices. The most important meal of the day was dinner, which began on the early side (around 4P.M.) and went on for six to seven hours.

This feast started with an antipasto (‘gustus’ or ‘gustatio.’) and was followed by six courses.

The antipasto usually consisted of small plates with pumpkin, hard boiled eggs, black and green olives, various vegetables, snails. The main courses usually consisted of meats and fish: lobster, oysters, eel, chicken, rabbit, veal and pork.

They had many strange delicacies such a s camel’s foot and flamingo… but we won’t get in to that now.
The most precious among the meats was fowl. Whether it was raised or caught.
The ‘puls,’ was a sort of polenta made with farro dressed with legumes, cheese or vegetables. “Garum” was a sauce made from the interiors of fish and they were always present on a Roman feast’s table along with farina based bread. (The Italian word for flour, farina, comes from farro.).

The ‘secundae mensae” indicated that dinner was coming to a close. Sweets made with honey, wine or fruit (apple, grapes, figs, apricots or peaches or persimmons from Persia) were then brought to the banquet.
All of this was accompanied by ‘mulsum’ a honey infused wine,
Famous scribes like Cicerone, Ovidio, Virgilio and Catone all wrote about the famous recipes of the Roman kitchen… but wild fowl was by far their favorite.

I give you the recipe fit for these famous ancient writers… and a recipe fit for a king (or a Caesar).

Quagliette alla cacciatora con olive, capperi e rosmarino
Quail cacciatore with olives, capers and rosemary

1 quail per person
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup white wine
1 onion
2 basil leaves
1 bunch of rosemary leaves
3 fresh tomatoes
12 green olives
12 capers

-Cut the quail in half long ways
-put the quail in a large pan with oil and brown both sides until golden
– chop onion and brown together with quail
– add basil
– add olives and capers
– add wine and let cook off
– dice tomatoes and add
– add salt and rosemary
– cover and simmer on reduced heat until sauce comes together
– you can serve the quail with a basmati rice cooked in salted water

It was not easy to find the right wine for this succulent dish. But I found a great one in Sicily with Barone di Serramarrocco.

From the pignanello grape.
Ruby in color, consistent and impenetrable. This wine has a delicious nose with hints of red fruits, notes of green and an inviting aroma of liquorice, tobacco, vanilla and chocolate. The palate is well balanced, rich, harmonious with soft tannins. The return was full of red fruits and had notes of balsamic , with a long finish.

Eating Italy Food Tour

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