One of our favourite bar bites ever are the pickled quail eggs at the Alembic. If you’re starving, and find that you possibly can’t wait for the five awesome dishes you’ve just ordered to start to arrive, take heart – you’ll be grateful when these are set quickly in front of you. They arrive almost instantaneously, scooped up from a large jar behind the bar.
As DD narrates – he once (after a particularly stressful day), consumed no less than a mean dozen in a sitting, interspersed with some very good cocktails. And, characteristic of my husband in all the time I’ve known him – once he’s got his mind set on something, that thing is as good as done. Fortuitously, he stumbled upon the actual Alembic recipe via 7×7 Magazine.
So, Chef Fleury, hats off to you!
The procedure’s pretty simple: boil the eggs and shock them in cold water. When they’re cool, carefully remove the shells. Chef Fleury recommends Nijiya in Japantown for sourcing these; we found ours at Sunset Super in the Outer Sunset.
Make a pickling liquid from a medium beet, a red onion, vinegar and pickling spices (coriander, chili flake, allspice, clove, bayleaf, mustard seed) – I’ve found that the seeds are a little difficult to locate if you stick to the larger groceries but Park’s Farmer’s Market II on Irving will have them, as does Rainbow Grocery in SoMA, and Haig’s in the Richmond.
We didn’t have a juicer, and made do with our blender. (We wondered initially whether we should have used the food processor but the blender won out.) This took some finagling, as beets are not as naturally juicy as, say, oranges, and it took us a bit to figure out how to prevent the chunks of beets from jumping away from the blades and sticking to the sides of the blender long enough for them to become pureed. We added a little water and the chopped onion, and DD poked a wooden spoon through the hole in the lid, coaxing the pieces away from the sides of the container and into the blades so that, after a while, we had a puree.
Run your cheesecloth under some water – the cloth needs to be damp but not sopping, dripping wet. Put the puree into the cloth and squeeze as hard as you can. Yes, that pouch loaded with beet and onion looks a little too much like some beating red organ – we tried to concentrate on extracting rather than staring.
Mix the vegetable juices with the vinegar and pickling spices, pour into a mason jar with your eggs and 24 hours later you’ll have a batch of very tasty, vinegary, spicy pickled eggs!
Note: Harold Magee writes in his seminal On Food and Cooking that the procedure above can also be used with regularly-sized eggs. He also indicates that if you have a bit more time (if the pull of instant gratification can be set aside for the moment,), you can pickle the eggs shell and all! The acid is apparently sufficient to dissolve the calcium carbonate surrounding the egg, so at the end of 1-3 weeks, you should be able to begin consuming them without having to peel what was once shell-on eggs. And, these apparently keep for up to a year(!) without refrigeration. To be safe, however, we’ll be storing our eggs in the coldbox.