The Art of the Dinner Party – Cooking with Kretz

Here is the latest column from Chef Shawn Kretz! 

A sucessful dinner party depends on many components coming together.

The famous food writers M.F.K Fisher and Elizabeth David have waxed eloquently about the virtues a host should posess. Aside from the food and drink, our most important consideration is the selection of the attendees to the gathering.

Multiple factors should be accounted for when selecting dinner guests. One must keep in mind dietary restrictions and personal dislikes. It would be embarrasing to invite your semetic friends for a pork dinner.

Also important is the breadth of your guests professional endeavours. If you had a party full of lawyers, one can be assured there would be a lot of legal talk. However, having a lawyer, doctor, electrician, chef, plumber, and politician should allow spirited and engaging conversations.

Try not to have them become too charged, ie. An abortion doctor and a priest.   It really is difficult to select your guests to help ensure a memorable evening.  The more engaged your guests are the more time you have to prepare and serve sequential courses of food.

Cuisine and drink are the next important consideration.  You must decide how adventurous and complex your cuisine will be, this can greatly effect your wow factor.  This will also determine your prep and service time.  I like to do 4 or more small courses at any dinner parties I have hosted.   This allows for more creativity and selection.   It also allows for more wine/other beverages.

It is always nice to have a beverage paired to the food. Ie cider with charcuterie, port with chocolate or cheese, sherry or champagne with an hors d’oeuvre or appetizer and so on.

I suggest utilizing books and the internet to come up with a meal for your guests that you can be proud of.  Do not be afraid to mix and match recipes or elements of a dish, make them your own.   Also use these resources to get beverage pairings, there are a number of classic matches, such as Alsatian wines with Asian cuisines, etc.

Good luck and happy partying.

This week’s recipe is Stuffed quail
(4 servings)

4 whole quail, deboned, skin on
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup wild rice
1 cup dried cranberries
4 cups chicken stock
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp salted butter

8 skewers
1 large cast iron skillet or heavy bottomed frying pan.
2 tbsp canola oil

This recipe has 3 separate cooking stages, but is not difficult. I highly recommend buying quail deboned( cage out) unless you are feeling very adventurous. This stuffing would also go well in a rolled rabbit saddle or rolled pork tenderloin.

Start with a small pot of salted water (2- 3 cups).

Boil the wild rice until tender and it begins to split (about45 min- 1hr).

In a frying pan on med heat melt the butter and sweat the garlic and shallots without colouring.

Add quinoa and cranberries, toast for 1 minute then add stock.

Bring to a boil then simmer on low until all liquid is absorbed then remove from heat and fluff after 10 minutes.

Strain rice when cooked and stir in, check seasoning on mixture.

Cool completely if not cooking quail right away. Otherwise stuff the quail cavity and close back flaps with the skewers or large toothpicks, or sew it up.

Season the birds with sea salt and pepper.

Heat oil in pan and sear quail breast side down, turn as it colours to have even golden brown (6- 10 minutes total).

Let rest, deglaze pan with favourite wine, add some butter and reduce until slightly thickened.

Remove skewers and serve with any accompaniment.

I recommend or peruvian blue potatoes and a nice watercress salad with a honey balsamic vinaigrette. The quail will benefit from the sweetness. You can even add some honey to the stuffing if you like.

This would pair well with a nice northern italian white wine such as a pinot grigio, gavi, soave, or a red such as barolo or barbaresco.

Buon appetito!

Chef Shawn Kretz

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  1. quinoa and cranberries sounds heavenly!

    I usually stuff chickens with a bulgur, carmelized onions, garlic (way more than one clove!) and roasted pine nut mixture.

  2. Thanks for the comment.
    Sounds like a nice, healthy stuffing; with some great textures to boot.

    I personally like to utilize various forms of alium in my cooking as an accent, and flavour enhancer. I believe that the finesse and balance of a dish depends on the harmony of different flavours. Quail is so delicate that it would be easily overpowered by a strong ingredient. That being said, it all depends on the dish. Aglio e Olio is certainly going to taste of Olive oil and Garlic.

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