It is important that you start this recipe three weeks before you plan to serve it, because Daguin says the prunes must soak for a minimum of 21 days. Just place 24 prunes in a sterilized, wide-mouth jar or crock and cover with Armagnac.
Wine recommendations: A Fer Servadou, also known as Mansois or simply Fer. This is lighter on the tannin than other regional choices, which makes it a better partner for the delicate flavors of quail, but it still has enough power and peppery taste to hold up nicely next to those marvelous prunes. From the Marcillac region, choose a 1999 Jean Luc Matha or a 1998 Domaine du Cros; from Gaillac, the 2000 Château Lastour.
- 20 minced shallots
- 8 branches fresh thyme
- 8 garlic cloves, prepared in confit (see Garbure recipe)
- 3 cups duck demi-glace or enriched stock
- 2 cups Armagnac
- 24 seedless grapes
- 8 quail
- 21 pitted prunes marinated in Armagnac for 3 weeks, liquid reserved
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To make the sauce: Heat a baking pan over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic confit and thyme and cook until the shallots wilt, about 5 minutes, scraping the any bits in the bottom of the pan all the while. Add veal and duck demi-glace and stir. Deglaze the skillet with the Armagnac and scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat and cook for about 1 hour, until the liquid becomes syrupy. Strain, taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Add grapes.
To make the quail: Preheat oven to 475F to 500F. Season the quail inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stuff the quail with 2 prunes each and close the cavity with a toothpick. Place quail in a baking pan and roast for 12 minutes. If they look dry, baste them with a little of the Armagnac/prune juice.
To serve: Place a puddle of the sauce on each of 4 warm plates and place two quail on each.