Foie Gras, Leek and Truffle-Stuffed Quails: Just One of Jim Harrison’s Gifts to Mankind

Foie Gras and truffle-stuffed quail
“Once, at the Denver Airport, a bald girl in an orange dress told me I could be what I wanted.”
– Jim Harrison, The Raw & The Cooked

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”.

Foie Gras and truffle-stuffed quail

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.

Foie Gras and truffle-stuffed quail

Foie Gras, Leek and Truffle-Stuffed Quails (serves 2 as a main, 4 as an appetizer)

  • 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


  1. Rinse quails well under cold water, removing giblets if included
  2. Pat dry and preheat oven to 425F/220C.
  3. In a large saucepan, melt butter and gently saute mushroom and leek duxelle until nicely softened.
  4. Add garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.
  5. Increase heat to medium-high and pour in wine.
  6. Allow wine to reduce by about 2/3, reduce heat to medium-low, and add foie gras, walnuts and truffles.
  7. Stir well to combine ingredients and add cream. Season to taste.
  8. Allow mixture to cool completely before stuffing it into the cavity of your quails.
  9. Taking the extra butter, rub your stuffed quails well all over and then season with salt and pepper.
  10. Place quails on a baking pan and introduce it to the oven.
  11. Bake for about 22 minutes or until quails are medium-well done.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

26 thoughts on “Foie Gras, Leek and Truffle-Stuffed Quails: Just One of Jim Harrison’s Gifts to Mankind

  1. I also think this is a great article 🙂

    As long as people are realistic and sincere in there presentation, I dont worry about self proclaimed titles too much…but I guess thats a lot to ask from some, given the nature of the internet !

    I love your blog and am following! Reasons, great writing, recipes, and photos 🙂

  2. Haha! I know what you mean about “freelance writers.” So many shitty, shitty bloggers out there (ever hear of spell check, asshole?) and they fancy themselves real writers because they can hit a “publish” button and bam! “Look, ma! I’m on teh intarwebs!”

    You’re real writers (well Jonny is, I don’t know about Amy).

    Lovely quail, by the way. Just mouth-watering.

  3. I am just ROFLMAO at this post. You will definitely never see me refer to myself as a “freelance writer” of any kind. I have a blog because I subscribe to the adage that “blogsites are just ego trips for people who can’t get their material published elsewhere.” I pretend to be neither a writer, nor a cook. I’m just a goofball who likes to eat and then talk about it!

    But honestly, if you guys wanted to be food writers, I’d buy whatever you published. This quail dish is pushing my salivary glands in high gear. It looks utterly decadent. I wanted to try it just reading the post title!

  4. I love love love quail and foie gras and polenta! YUM.

    I so agree with you and the plethora of food blogs out there. Many of them don’t even have interesting sounding food. I’m glad I can count on you guys… though sad to see you don’t publish more often these days 🙁

    But perhaps in defense of those folks, maybe by putting it out there that they are “freelance writers” they might get approached by one of the larger blogs or magazines to publish one of their posts??

    Ironically, I have been paid for articles, but still don’t consider myself a freelance writer either.

  5. You have cast an interesting point on the waters. I know for myself, although I really enjoy it that people read/see what I write and cook and shoot… I do it for the satisfaction it gives me. Calling myself a food writer — not really feeling that yet. It’s sort of like a waiter who tells you they are an actor. Until you get paid for it, you are not.

    I have read many professionals who are execrable writers and amateurs who can be brilliant. Does the title matter? I am not sure. If it makes someone feel better about what they are doing, what’s the harm?

    The quail recipe?? That I am sure of.. it looks delish. Having just made quail myself last week (for next week’s blog) I love them and am surprised how easy they are to do. Yours is a super recipe… love the walnut addition and polenta nest… Hurrah for Harrison! BTW, you are a pretty fine writer yourself! You put a lot of charm into a recipe!

  6. What an interesting post!! And a delicious recipe–I like the idea of being a freelance eater that was proposed by lisaiscooking…these days, it is tough to make money as exclusively a food writer. You can be published, paid for it (usually not much) and still be a hobby writer as far as your taxes are concerned (And still be a blogger, too.) Most people have to make money from another source, and put themselves out there on another ‘platform’, ie teaching cooking classes, corporate writing, etc. And some hubris and self-promotion is necessary, to compete in a saturated marketplace. It takes a lot of elements (usually someone else paying the bills, and some perks of your job are unpaid) for the world to perceive you (falsley or not) as a ‘successful’ food writer. And you HAVE to be passionate about it.
    FYI–I linked to your post today on Milanesa a la Napolitana in my blog post. But I’m going to put this post out on my networks, it’s an interesting point!

  7. @Rebecca – very glad this post has started a discussion, though I think it’s a discussion between people who basically agree. You’re exactly right, it is very hard making money as a food writer out there, and I know from talking to several of them that “professional food writers” (i.e. non-bloggers) are mostly outraged by people like us competing for their jobs, and at rates they normally wouldn’t consider. What I was really getting at was those bloggers who have never written anything that’s been published elsewhere but somehow believe that simply being a blogger makes them a freelance writer. Maybe it’s that the term “freelance writer” is being confused with “writer for free”?

  8. I just got my first freelance food writing gig, but I wouldn’t consider “advertising” myself as a freelance writer on my blog unless/ until I got at LEAST a few more articles under my belt. Do people really do that without backing it up with any links or mentions of publications they’ve written for? Seems like that would have the opposite result of anyone taking them seriously to hire them.

  9. Hi, came over to your blog from an old comment you left on mine about three years ago – and was really taken with this article! Nice piece of writing!

    Nice post – FYI, I’m a hobbyist blogger who uses food as a platform to get the conversation going.

  10. I’ve never read any of Harrison’s work, but I think I’ll have to give him a whirl soon. I’d also be excited to get my hands on some of your food, if only I could think of a way to manage that.

  11. I was mesmerized by the title first, then your post sucked me in with so many interesting thoughts to ponder and then I just had to order Jim Harrison’s book to boot. The recipe and photos look delicious…

  12. If such an abundantly delicious quail can be so modest, might not we all be able to learn something from its tastiness? Pass the plate, please!

    Great article Jonny. I agree with you. I hope i haven’t turned into one of those jerks off. From now on i’ll take my grammar/spelling mistakes as a blessing. 🙂

  13. I couldn’t have put it better myself – actually I couldn’t – What a brilliant, timely swipe WANF. As for the attacks of hubris – ah yes.

    The quail looks delcious, perfectly cooked I think and I love the sound of the stuffing of walnuts, mushrooms and FG – I imagine you had a wonderful supper.

  14. @Zen – I will never criticize you for your grammar or spelling as long as my written (and spoken) French remains at the 3 grade level, and as long as you promise not to criticize us for our culinary mistakes!
    @Foodhoe – Harrison is probably my favorite writer. His mix of dark humor and muscularity is second to none, in my humble opinion.
    @Rach – we tend not to be as aggressive as we used to, but every now and then, we just can’t help ourselves, and then self-congratulate with foie gras!

  15. Great article. While I’m a freelance writer by your definition, I’m def. guilty of making mistakes in spelling, etc…, which are quickly fixed (and hopefully before masses get to it); that being said, you’re right, not everyone qualifies as a food/travel/lifestyle writer simply because they publish on their blog.

    Anyhow, great looking quail, which I’m not a huge fan of 🙂

    Miss chatting with you guys. Hope all is well in your busy world.

  16. Hi there. The current Food on Friday on Carole’s Chatter is collecting links to dishes using duck or other game birds. I do hope you link this in. This is the link . It would be great if you checked out some of the other links – there are some good ones already. Cheers

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