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Many who have never read his Remembrance of Things Past (aka In Search of Lost Time) are nevertheless familiar with Marcel Proust’s description of how a bite of tea-soaked madeleine evoked a forgotten childhood memory:

“No sooner had the warm liguid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me…An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses…What did it mean?…

“…Suddenly the memory revealed itself.  The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray…when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea…”

In recent years, writers have expanded on this Proustian theme of sensual memory.  Food no longer provides a nostalgic interlude or two in a life story… it becomes the entire, autobiographical leitmotif. Making it, eating it, sharing it, is how the writer makes sense of memories…makes sense of himself.  In Blood, Bones, and Butter chef Gabrielle Hamilton looks back on her life through the prism of food.  So does Kate Moses in her excellent memoir Cakewalk.  Both women are good storytellers and for anyone looking to read an eloquent version of this curious genre–both books qualify.

Popular British food writer Nigel Slater has added his own ‘food memoir’ to the collection:   Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger.  His boyhood home is the story and it is told through the medium of…food.  Not surprisingly, ‘comfort food’ and good-tasting, straightforward recipes regularly appear in Mr. Slater’s recipe column in The Guardian.  He describes his style of cooking as “understated, handcrafted home cooking that is easy to accomplish”.  (How home cooking can be anything but ‘handcrafted’ is a question for another day.)   ‘Spicy Roast Quail on Baguette ‘Croûtes’ is based on one of Mr. Slater’s recipes and fits his description of the food he cooks.  And (besides being uncomplicated) it is interesting…and delicious.

Spicy Roast Quail on Baguette ‘Croûtes’ (for 6 people)

A Note about Quantities:  2 quail per person is enough in a multi-course lunch or dinner–3 per person in a single-course meal.

And a Note about Timing:  Ideally, the quail are brushed with the basting sauce and refrigerated for 24 hours, but if this doesn’t suit your plans, they are very good brushed and roasted directly.

Note:  To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.


  • 12 Quail for a multi-course meal and 18 for a single-course one:  Cut off the necks and clean out the insides of the quail if they are not oven-ready
  • 12 Garlic Cloves, crushed
  • 3 Tablespoons of Sunflower Oil
  • 2 teaspoons of Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
  • 6 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
  • 12 Tablespoons of coarse-grained Dijon Mustard
  • 12 Rounds of Bread cut from a French Baquette (18 rounds for 18 quail)
  • 4 Tablespoons of Butter, divided into 2 parts (6 Tablespoons divided into 3 parts to sauté 18 rounds of baguette)
  • 4 Tablespoons of Water

For an optional Last Touch

  • 12 whole, round Orange Slices for making ‘Orange Twists’ as described here in a previous dk post (2 Twists for each plate)
  • Chopped Parsley


  • a Small Bowl for mixing the sauce ingredients
  • a Basting Brush
  • one or more Containers (casserole dishes, for example) in which to marinate the quail overnight in the refrigerator…or use the Roasting Pan
  • a Roasting Pan, large enough to hold the quail discretely, without their touching one another
  • a Frying Pan for making the Baguette ‘Croûtes’
  • 6 Finger Bowls and 6 Large Cloth Napkins:  To eat quail, guests have to use their fingers and… clean them before moving on to the dessert.  Any number of types of small bowls may serve as finger bowls…Chinese rice bowls, for example, or small, plain, round ice cream bowls.   A suggestion for how to arrange the finger bowls is at the end of this recipe.

1.  In a small bowl combine the garlic, sunflower oil, cayenne, lemon juice, soy sauce and Dijon mustard.

2.  Brush each quail all over, generously, with this sauce…

…and arrange them in a single layer either in  in a large roasting pan or any container(s) that suits your refrigerator space (a casserole dish, for example).  Cover the quail lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for 24 hours.  Reserve the rest of the sauce, refrigerated, as well.

3.  To roast the quail:  Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Arrange the birds in the roasting pan so that they are not touching.  Brush them with some more sauce and put them in the oven.  Roast the quail, brushing them from time to time with the reserved sauce for about 25 minutes.  (Reserve any unused sauce to mix in with the pan drippings to make a sauce to dribble over the roast quail just before serving them.)

4.  To make the baguette ‘croûtes’:  Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in the pan and sauté 6 of the baguette rounds on both sides until they are golden brown.  Transfer them to a plate and cover them loosely with a cloth napkin to keep them warm.  Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter to the pan and sauté the rest of the slices of baguette. (For 18 rounds of bread, use an additional 2 Tablespoons of butter and sauté them in 3 batches.)

5.  To serve the quail:  Place the roasting pan over the oven burner and add 4 Tablespoons of Water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula to mix the drippings and liquid together.  Add any sauce that was not used to baste the quail.  Mix everything together well and heat the sauce through.  Place 2 croûtes on each plate. Drizzle a little sauce over them.  Place a quail on top of each croûte and dribble a little sauce over them.  Decorate the plates with the Orange Twists (if you are using them) and sprinkle each plate with some chopped parsley.  (Photo illustrations and explanation for making Orange Twists is here in a previous diplomatickitchen post.)

Arranging Finger Bowls

You will need:

  • 6 small-ish round Bowls and 6 small Plates to place them on
  • 6 slices of Lemon
  • warm Water
  • small Flowers are optional and look pretty in the finger bowls
  • 6 large, plain cloth Napkins

1.  Remove the dinner plates from the table.

2.  Place the bowls on the plates and fill them with warm water.  Place a slice of lemon in each bowl (and a couple of flowers if you like).

2.  Place the finger bowls on the table, before each guest– and a napkin alongside each bowl.  After everyone has washed off and dried their fingers, remove the bowls and napkins.

A Note: Spicy Roast Quail on Baguette ‘Croûtes’ is the Main Course of the Lunch Menu:  Fish and Chicks:  A Long, Leisurely Early Autumn LunchThe quail are made from a recipe based on one is Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries (2005).

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012