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Friday, April 8, 2016

Green Garlic

The annual Calcotadas in Spain are Catalonian spring festivals celebrating the harvest of their over-wintered twice-planted beloved calcotes. Rooted in deep tradition, calcotes (large mild green onions) are harvested, roasted over open flaming pits, wrapped in newspapers to steam, peeled, and eaten one by one with romesco sauce and bread. After the calcotes are removed from the pits, various cuts of meat are thrown onto the grills to feed the zealous onion eating crowds. Festival goers gather around the smoldering onions, don paper bibs, guzzle red wine poured from porrons, and eat everything with their fingers. Calcotadas are messy messy business.

Smitten by Blue Moon Farm's market green garlic (the mild thinned out shoots of immature garlic bulbs) and their crazy uncanny resemblance to Kentucky green onions, I embraced the notion of a Spanish Calcotada and paired baby green garlic with local quail for a Bluegrass take on a Catalonian Calcotada.

Ale-8-One Barbecued Quail with Charred Green Garlic.

One or two bite wonders.
Local farm raised quail are just so darned precious and fragile. Masquerading as dainty little chickens, their teeny tiny bodies simply beg to be gently stuffed, tied, wrapped in some kind of pork, and quick cooked to keep the meat moist and tender. Nope. I resisted the urge to get all fiddly, tossed the kid gloves, and roughed them up a bit.

Using kitchen shears, I snipped the backbones from 2 1/2 pounds small Stonehege Farm farm raised Bobwhite quail and smashed the birds with the palm of my hand to flatten them out. Duly spatchcocked, I sliced the quail in half, and tossed the pieces into a gingery Ale-8-One quick brine (1 1/2 cups Ale-8-One soda, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, a few grinds of cracked black pepper, and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil), and set them aside.

A Late One.
Working over a medium flame, I sauteed 2 tablespoons minced garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the garlic bloomed from the heat, I deglazed the pan with 1 cup Ale-8-One and let it reduce by half before adding 1 1/2 cups ketchup, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons worchestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 1 teaspoon smoked bourbon salt, and cracked black pepper. I brought the sauce to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, let it rip for 20 minutes, and pulled it from the heat.

Green garlic. 
I rinsed and trimmed 2 bundles of Blue Moon Farm baby green garlic, patted them dry with a dish towel, and drizzled them with olive oil before showering them with salt and pepper.

After soaking a handful of hickory chips in water for 30 minutes, I ignited a fire in an outdoor grill. When the flames settled into glowing hot coals, I tossed the green garlic onto the grill grate and let them singe from the heat.. When they started to blacken and char, I pulled them from the grill, wrapped them in newspaper, and set them aside.

While the coals were still very hot, I brushed the quail with the reserved barbecue sauce and slipped them onto the grill breast side up. After 4 minutes, I flipped the birds and let the other side cook for 4 minutes before basting and flipping them for 3 additional minutes until they were cooked through, lacquered up, and caramelized.

I peeled the charred outer skins from the baby green garlic, twirled them onto a bread board, splashed them with fresh lemon juice, and nestled the barbecued quail halves into the smoky steamed ribbons. Instead of a roasted red bell pepper/almond -based romesco sauce, I slid a fresh red bell pepper-flecked gorgonzola sauce to the side.

Tucked under the caramelized sticky crisped skin, the slight gaminess of the tender quail poked through the assertive smoky sauce. While the lemon-splashed charred green garlic countered the sweetness of the glaze with soft garlic undertones, the gorgonzola dipper provided creamy sharp punch.

Swipe. Dip. Suck. Repeat.
A Bluegrass Calcotada.
Fired up finger food.

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