This approach to quail, inspired by British food writer Elizabeth David, is guaranteed to convert the game wary.
- 6 large portobello mushrooms
- 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 1⁄4-lb. quail
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
Trim mushrooms and wipe clean with a damp dish towel. Remove stems and chop enough to make 1 cup, discarding the rest. Heat 1⁄4 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushroom caps and cook, turning once, until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Reduce heat to low and add another 2 tbsp. of the oil to skillet. Add onions, chopped mushroom stems, and 3 sprigs thyme, and cook until onions are soft, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Return mushroom caps to skillet.
Meanwhile, coat another skillet with remaining oil and heat over medium heat. Rinse quail, pat dry, and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Cook, browning on all sides, for 18–20 minutes.
Transfer quail to onion-mushroom mixture, placing 1 quail on top of each mushroom cap. For the sauce, deglaze quail skillet with vinegar and 1⁄4 cup water, scraping bits from bottom of skillet. Pour sauce around quail, then increase heat to medium and cook just until mushroom caps are warmed through and sauce is slightly thickened, 1–3 minutes. Garnish with remaining thyme and serve from skillet.