Deviled Quail Eggs with Caviar

Deviled Quail Eggs with CaviarThis hors d’oeuvre is an eye-catching display of black caviar set on a miniature bed of onion-laced deviled egg. Each tiny quail egg sits snugly on a little round brioche toast and requires only a pinch of caviar to complete the picture. They are easy to serve to dinner guests upon arrival or to a circulating cocktail crowd, and may serve to prompt some lively discussion, too. Popping a little egg into your mouth and washing it down with a glass of chilled sparkling wine makes a stunning equation on the palate.

You can find quail eggs in specialty-food shops. Peeling and preparing them is a task geared toward cooks with a gentle touch.

1 loaf brioche bread, cut into slices 1/4 in/6 mm thick
2 tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
20 quail eggs
2 tbsp crème fraîche
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 oz/30 g imported or domestic caviar
4 or 5 fresh chives, snipped into pieces about 1/2 in/12 mm long

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4.

Using a 2-in/5-cm round cookie cutter or the rim of a narrow glass (such as a Champagne flute) of about that size in diameter, cut out rounds of bread from the brioche slices, avoiding the crusts. (You should be able to cut 2 or 3 rounds from each slice.) Using your finger and thumb, pinch a small indention about 1/2 in/12 mm in diameter into the center of each brioche round (these will hold the quail eggs). Place the rounds on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss togther the shallots and lemon juice. Set side.

Place the quail eggs in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover by 2 in/5 cm. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the eggs for 3 minutes to hard-boil. Remove from the heat, carefully pour off the hot water, and rinse the eggs with cold tap water. Let the eggs stand in cold water for 5 minutes.

Carefully crack the eggs and peel away their shells, starting at the wide bottom end of each egg. Once peeled, rinse each egg with cold water to remove any remaining small bits of shell. Set the eggs on paper towels/absorbent papers to dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut each egg in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks with the tip the paring knife or a very small spoon and place them in the bowl with the shallot–lemon juice mixture. Set the empty egg-white halves aside.

Add the crème fraîche, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste to the yolks. Using a fork to mash the yolks, mix until a thick paste forms and all the ingredients are well combined.

Using a very small spoon or the tip of a dinner knife, fill the cavity of each egg-white half with the yolk mixture. If necessary, gently tamp the mixture down with your thumb. Set each filled egg half in the cavity of a toasted brioche round.

Place a tiny dollop of caviar on top of each egg. Garnish each with a chive piece. If not serving immediately, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 40 deviled eggs