CAILLE AUX RAISINS, a classic French combination, has been served for centuries, maybe because during the grape harvest, plump quails often gorge on the sweet globes. There are many ways to present this dish, originally from Gascony, from simply roasting the birds on the bone, to stuffing them, to flambéeing them in Cognac. For special occasions in the late summer, I have often stuffed quail with figs and spices. Here, we mold a succulent mixture of mushrooms, quail, liver, heart, leg meat, bacon, and chicken livers into a farce under the breasts and then serve the birds with confit grapes.
Preheat the oven to 190°F. Thinly slice 10 of the grapes and reserve, chilled, for garnish. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 3 cups water and bring to a simmer. Place the grapes in a small baking dish, pour in the syrup, and bake uncovered for 3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes; the liquid will reduce slightly. Reserve at room temperature.
For the Pearl Onion Confit
In a small saucepan, heat the duck fat to 185°F. Add the bay leaf, juniper berries, and garlic. Season the onions with salt and pepper, submerge in the fat, and cook for 1 hour, or until tender. Strain and store, chilled.
For the Roasted Chanterelles
Scrape away any tough or woody parts of the mushroom stems. Wash the chanterelles several times in tepid water and pat dry.
Heat the duck fat and butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté for 10 minutes, or until any liquid has evaporated. Weigh 3 ounces of the mushrooms, transfer to a cutting board, and finely chop; set aside for the stuffing. Reserve the remaining mushrooms, chilled.
For the Stuffed Quail Breast
Fold 8 squares of aluminum foil into 7-inch-long × ¾-inch-wide strips.
Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until translucent. Extract the quail hearts and livers if they still remain in the cavities; chop them into ⅛-inch dice and transfer to a medium bowl with the onion. Cut off the wing tips and reserve for the jus. Carve off the breasts, leaving the wings attached, and set aside. Carve the legs from the quails and debone them; reserve the bones for the jus. Remove the skin from the legs, cut the meat into ⅛-inch dice, and add to the bowl with the heart and liver along with the bacon, chicken liver, two-thirds of the reserved chopped chanterelles, the Cognac, and the wine. Weigh the stuffing and scale the seasoning needed according to the ratio listed in the ingredients. Sprinkle the quail breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.
Lay the breasts skin side down on a cutting board, evenly divide the farce onto the breasts, and pack it down firmly. Wrap aluminum foil strips around their edges, folding the ends tightly to form the breasts into taut eye-shaped portions. Reserve, chilled.
For the Sauternes Quail Jus
Chop the quail bones into 1-inch pieces, rinse, and pat dry. Heat the duck fat in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the bones in a single layer and sear on all sides until browned, about 10 minutes total. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots and thyme. Cook, stirring, until the shallots are caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the Sauternes and simmer, stirring, until almost dry. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a small saucepan and simmer until the sauce coats the back of a spoon; keep warm.
For the Duxelle-Filled Potatoes
Cut the potatoes into ¾-inch slices and punch out at least 8 discs with a ¾-inch ring cutter. With a Parisienne scoop, carve out cavities to form cups. Transfer the potato trim to a small saucepan and cover with salted water. Simmer until tender, strain, and return to medium heat, stirring until dry. Add the butter, milk, cream, and the remaining chopped chanterelles and mash with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.
In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt the duck fat and add the garlic and thyme. Season the potato cups with salt and pepper and add them to the pan. Brown on all sides, about 8 minutes total, until cooked through. Strain onto a paper towel–lined tray and season again with salt and pepper.
Stuff each potato cup with a mound of the mushroom-potato mixture. Transfer to a baking sheet and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Heat the duck fat in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the aluminum foil–wrapped quail breasts skin side down (you may need to do this in batches) and sear undisturbed for 2 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon of the butter, the garlic, and thyme; once the butter foams, reduce the heat to medium and baste the butter over the stuffing for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully flip the quail breasts.
Allow them to rest for 3 minutes in the warm pan, then transfer to a paper towel–lined plate. Strain the fat from the pan. Remove the foil from the breasts, return them to the pan, and spoon jus over the breasts to glaze; keep warm.
Spoon jus on top of the stuffed potatoes and bake for 5 minutes, or until heated through.
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the reserved roasted chanterelles and pearl onion confit and toss to heat through. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and add the parsley.
Strain the confit grapes and stir them into the remaining jus to heat through. For each serving, arrange 2 onions and 2 stuffed potatoes in the center of a warm dinner plate. Top the onions with purslane leaves and crispy shallots. Arrange 2 quail breasts on opposite sides of the plate. Spoon the mushrooms next to the breasts and garnish with some sliced grapes and purslane leaves.