Now before anyone misinterprets the title of this post and thinks tunnel-boning is a BDSM fetish... fat hope! This is only a food blog remember? Now read on..
Last Saturday, I decided to serve roasted quails for the main course again. The last time I served this was about 6 weeks back, and while it was all tasty enough, I didn't manage to tunnel-bone the birds properly (left the spine intact), and also they came out a touch overdone. Practise makes perfect as they say, and I just had to try to perfect this dish.
I could have bought quails at the big Times Square CitySuper that already come tunnel-boned (albeit at a slightly higher price). But no... you see, somehow I had this unexplainable, irresistable urge to tunnel-bone the quails myself. For those unfamiliar with the term, tunnel-boning is the technique of removing the ribcage and spine of poultry though the neck opening while keeping the skin and meat completely intact and unbroken. So when stuffed, the tunnel-boned birds will look like they've never been deboned, but can be cut right through for ease of eating (quails are fiddly to eat if not deboned). Sounds impossible? Well I just had to try it again.
You see, I actually enjoy the prepping process in cooking. Whether it be peeling potatoes, mincing garlic, gutting fish or deboning meat, I view it as a holistic and intrinsic part of the culinary journey. If you know how to prep your own ingredients, you will end up having more respect for the food you cook. Tunnel-boning just sounded like something I had to master.
After brining the birds, I culled some imprecise instructions from the internet and set about deboning the fiddly creatures. First I slid my paring knife under the breast meat near the neck opening and cut out the wish bone, then i used my fingers to slowly work the flesh away from the rib cage. That bit was easy enough. The tricky bit came when I attempted to loosen the skin away from the bony spine. I managed to rip through 2 birds (so had to butterfly them instead). Fortunately I managed to sucessfully tunnel bone the other 2 birds. (One of them did have a tiny tear but it was salvageable). All in, I must have spent an hour and a half working on the 4 birds. I don't know if I was doing it correctly, but when I was done with the tunnel-boning, the birds were almost turned inside out!I stuffed the birds with a mushroom and bacon breadcrumb mix, trussed them,then roasted them for 20 minutes over a charcoal fire. I have to say, the result was great and the birds turned out not only looking very presentable, but tasted absolutely delicious and were so easy to eat with no finicky bones to pick through. I know you can't really tell from the photo (and yes I do need to start taking better pictures, I can hear you think), but I swear there are no bones in that quail save for the legs... No kidding!!