In Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, the lovesick Tita puts all her passion into a dish intended for her lover called “quail in rose petal sauce.” Instead, her sister Gertrudis eats it, and not long after begins “to feel an intense heat pulsing through her limbs.” Dripping with rose-scented sweat, Gertrudis goes to the wooden shower stall in the backyard to cool off. Her body gives off so much heat that the wooden walls of the shower stall burst into flames—and so do her clothes. 

Running outside, the naked Gertudis is suddenly swooped up by one of Pancho Villa’s men, who charges into her backyard on horseback. 

“Without slowing his gallop, so as not to waste a moment, he leaned over, put his arm around her waist, and lifted her onto the horse in front of him, face to face, and carried her away.”

In other words, make this dish for someone you love.—R.W.

Quail in Rose Petal Sauce

(adapted from Like Water for Chocolate). 

The original recipe for this dish calls for rose petals, but you don’t want to use petals from conventional flower shop roses—those are treated with fungicides. Still, if you have some organically grown roses in your backyard, or know where to buy them, feel free to use them to garnish the finished dish. 

You’ll find rosewater at local Middle Eastern stores, and red prickly pear fruit puree or juice at most health food stores—or substitute frozen raspberries. If you have a dove hunter in the family, try this with dove instead of quail. (In fact, doves may be an even more romantic choice, if you don’t mind picking a little birdshot from your teeth.)

  • 4 quail (or 6 doves) 
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry sherry
  • 6 peeled chestnuts (boiled, roasted, or canned)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup red prickly pear fruit puree (or substitute raspberries)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp ground anise seed  
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 14 tsp rosewater
  • Petals of 6 fresh, organic red roses (optional garnish)

Heat the serving platter in an oven set to low. Rinse the quail and pat dry. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and lightly brown the birds on all sides. Add sherry and salt and pepper to the quail. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Turn the quail, cover, and cook another 10 minutes. Remove the quail when done to your liking and place on a heated platter. 

Combine the remaining ingredients with pan juices, transfer to a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour the sauce into a small pan and simmer 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper, and/or honey. Pour the sauce over the quail on the heated platter and serve hot. Sprinkle with the rose petals if you have them. Serves 2.

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