This is a recipe that first appeared in the recipe book of “La Nicolasa” in the 1920s. La Nicolasa was a cheff who had a restaurant in San Sebastian named after her. At home this book edited in the 1920’s is like a bible. It is a bit broken and out of its time but the content is very valuable. We can think of it as one of the pillars of Basque haute cuisine as some of the recipes are still valid today. Above all you can find recipes for traditional fish such as cod, sea bass, seafood and game meats such as quail, partridge, pheasant and deer. It is a very illustrative book about the origins of Basque cuisine.
Quails in Spanish sauce
The Spanish sauce is an onion-based sauce so we will need 1 onion for every 2 quails. 2 tablespoons of olive oil for each quail. 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar for each quail. 1 glass of white and red wine (50/50) per each quail. We will also add spices such as a sprig of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, black pepper, a sprig of parsley, a bay leaf (it is important to remove the bay leaf before crushing the sauce) and 1 clove per quail.
Cut the onion into more or less thick rings and place in a deep pot with the rest of the ingredients.
Season the outside and inside of the quails with salt and pepper and place on top of the casserole dish. Then cover the top of the casserole. Start to cook over low heat and the quails will cook with the aromatic vapors of the sauce. Let it cook over low heat. Always in the upper part of the casserole without submerging or mixing with the onions. After 1 hour they are usually ready to be removed to a plate. You can check by pulling one of the thighs. If it is tender and can be released, they are ready.
When we remove the quails to a plate we continue cooking the sauce over low heat. It can be another 3 hours until the sauce is reduced and takes a brown tone.
When the sauce is ready we remove the bay leaf and grind it. After passing the sauce we add the quails and let them rest in the sauce. It is best to leave them like this all night to eat them the next day.