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Broiled quail with salmorigano

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 4
Broiled quail with salmorigano
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Salmorigano

1

Thickly slice the garlic, then place in a mortar and pound it to rough paste. Add a pinch of salt and pound until smooth, then add the oregano, oil and black pepper or dried chili, pounding lightly as you stir them in with the pestle. Cover and store at room temperature.

2

Just before using, add the simmering water, squeeze in the lemon juice, whisk and taste. The sauce should not be tart; the lemon should contribute perfume more than acidity, and the water should tame all sourness to better reveal the fruit of the lemon and scent of the other aromatics.

3

Spoon the warm salsa over cooked meat, fish or vegetables.

Quail and assembly

1

Cut out the backbones of the quail and discard. Wash and pat dry.

2

Brush the skin side of each quail with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the broiler.

3

Place the quail on a rack over a baking sheet. Broil 6 inches from the heat for 7 to 10 minutes skin side up. Remove the quail from the oven and place in a glass baking dish.

4

Pour the salmorigano over to cover. Let stand for 30 minutes. Serve.

The salmorigano recipe is adapted from Judy Rodgers’ “The Zuni Cafe Cookbook” (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002). Although it’s traditionally made with fresh oregano, I like the long, persuasive flavor of dried oregano. I age the salmorigano at room temperature for at least a few days, but it always tastes best when I forget about it for a month or longer. Add the lemon juice and hot water no more than a minute before using the sauce. If using as a marinade, rub the raw meat, poultry or fish with the salmorigano to encourage it to impregnate the flesh with its flavor. Leave to marinate for up to an hour. Roast or grill over medium heat. The water may make the meat stick to the grill or pan, so allow time for that water to evaporate before you try to turn whatever you are cooking.

S. Irene Virbila is a former restaurant critic and wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times. She left in 2015.
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