There’s an awful conceit abroad the interwebs these days that seems to be encouraging more people than it should to title themselves “freelance food writers”. Perhaps you’ve seen it in the “About” section of a variety of the blogs you frequent? Coincidentally, there is an expression, “facebook hot”, in use among the youth (I know this because I snuck a peak into my sister-in-law’s Cosmopolitan the other day) to describe someone whose picture they have seen on said social networking site but found to be disappointing in the flesh. I flag both these things in order to highlight the little-known fact that the internet is full of charlatans, liars, and duplicity.
However, while it might be pretty straightforward to make oneself look good in a photo, masquerading as an accomplished writer is rather more of a feat. It strikes me that in order to be a food writer, the first pre-requisite is an ability to write well, not, as is apparently the common misapprehension, an interest or knowledge of food. Secondly, in order to be a freelance writer one must earn at least some portion of one’s living from writing, and, therefore, have a track record of getting published by others, instead of just self-publishing. Without both of these (and the former must come ahead of the latter), one is simply a blogger or hobbyist. [It’s important to note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a hobbyist blogger. We are definitely and contentedly hobbyists, deriving a good deal more expendable income from fluff-encrusted nickels and dimes found down the back of our couch than from our blog.] The point is that, even though most of us would love to get paid for doing stuff we do during our spare time, just because I might know how to use a lawn-mower and an edge-trimmer, exercising this knowledge in my back yard does not make me a “freelance landscaper”.
Those of you familiar with our body of work on this blog may recall previous references to Jim Harrison. Author of such novellas and books as Legends of the Fall, Sun Dog, and Dalva, Harrison has been compared in style and sensibility to such greats as Hemingway and Faulkner. In spite of these comparisons and the adaption of his work into high profile movies, like most successful writers he is modest about his work, and declares, in his often-hilarious collection of essays about food, The Raw & The Cooked, that, apart from his daughter, the only thing he has created that he is truly proud of is an annual spring-time dish of roasted quails stuffed with foie gras and leeks. Immediately, he avers that this does not make him a recipe writer, let alone a cookbook author.
If such an abundantly talented man can be so modest, might not we all be able to learn something from him about humility? We are all prone to attacks of hubris (take this early example of such from yours truly), and there are no real consequences other than self-delusion, but there is something rather saddening about declaring yourself a “food writer” on your blog and then immediately failing to demonstrate any of the requisite literary abilities in inept ramblings. Just because he was told he could be whatever he wanted, Jim Harrison didn’t automatically become 135lbs – except in his mind, and there are many things in our all minds best kept to ourselves.
- 4 quails
- 4oz foie gras or foie gras mousse
- 1 large leek, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped black truffles (optional)
- 2oz button mushrooms, finely diced
- 1 large glug white wine
- 2oz unsalted butter plus an extra largish knob
- 2oz light cream
- 2oz chopped walnuts
- Salt and black pepper
- Rinse quails well under cold water, removing giblets if included
- Pat dry and preheat oven to 425F/220C.
- In a large saucepan, melt butter and gently saute mushroom and leek duxelle until nicely softened.
- Add garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium-high and pour in wine.
- Allow wine to reduce by about 2/3, reduce heat to medium-low, and add foie gras, walnuts and truffles.
- Stir well to combine ingredients and add cream. Season to taste.
- Allow mixture to cool completely before stuffing it into the cavity of your quails.
- Taking the extra butter, rub your stuffed quails well all over and then season with salt and pepper.
- Place quails on a baking pan and introduce it to the oven.
- Bake for about 22 minutes or until quails are medium-well done.
- Any more cooked and they will be a tiny bit tough, any less and their gaminess might be off-putting. Do bear in mind though, that some quails are larger than others, so if you’ve got some big-uns, they’ll need a couple of minutes longer.
- Enjoy (as we did) with polenta, green beans and a pan gravy, or with your choice of side dishes, and feel at once capable of penning something important.