I’d never really thought much about quail. They’re really cute and funny to watch, running around, zigging and zagging this way and that. I’d ordered them in restaurants a time or two and they tasted pretty good. But I’d never really given them a second thought until….
I discovered that they were rather plentiful out at the ranch, and Deerslayer seemed to enjoy hunting them quite a bit. “Don’t shoot what you’re not willing to eat” ran through my mind. So I started ordering quail in restaurants, finding out which preparations were better than others, and thus began my quest for a repertoire of recipes for this new favorite in the Quailslayer household. While I’ve come across many quail dishes that were quite delicious, there was one that really stands out. The marinated quail were deboned except for the wings and legs, leaving the main succulent, beautifully flavorful part of the bird to be savored without picking at bones. The birds are seared, over high heat on a griddle or grilled. They are flattened with a skillet to allow the heat to penetrate more evenly.
This is my take on that recipe:
Marinated Flat Quail
(serves 4 for dinner)
8 quail, deboned (two per person)
½ cup Italian dressing
½ cup teriyaki sauce
5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. Sambal Oelek (ground, fresh chili paste found in the Asian food dept. of the grocer)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Quail can be purchased at the grocer, some already deboned. To help with my experimentation, I’ve bought birds deboned, au naturale or bone-in, and prepared birds straight from the hunting camp.
I found this brand at my local grocer. They were bone-in. Quite satisfactory. Skin intact, good flavor.
They have a website which I photographed for your web-browsing pleasure.
.I found a great tutorial on deboning quail from Jacques Pepin on Youtube. I wrestled a few quail before I got the hang of it. Since I was deboning more than just a couple, I found that going through a single step for all the birds allowed me to hone my skills, so to speak. For example, remove the wishbone from all 8 birds, then separate the wing bones from the shoulders for all eight. You get the picture. Game shears seemed to work better for me than a knife for detaching the wings and legs. Perhaps some of my readers feel more comfortable with a sharp knife for this task, but the shears did the trick for me. As I said, moving through each step for all the quail allowed me to get a little bit more proficient with each one. For me, the most difficult part was detaching the skin from the backbone, particularly near the tail. I used a butter knife to gently separate them. The skin is quite delicate and it’s best not to tear it. Several of my quail did end up with small holes in the skin, though. Keep in mind that the skin DOES seal in the juices. Nuff said.
The first time I prepared the birds, I marinated them THEN tried to debone them. Mistake! Very slippery.
Removing the wishbone
One deboned quail. Basically, it is turned wrong-side out.
…and right-side out.
Mix all marinade ingredients in a measuring cup. Place a large zip bag in a spill-proof container that can go into the refrigerator several hours or overnight.
Place deboned quail into the bag.
Pour marinade over quail. Remove excess air and seal bag. Squish around gingerly to incorporate marinade but not damage delicate quail or pierce bag with bones.
Marinated, deboned quail ready for the griddle
Place quail on hot griddle. They’re pretty floppy so arrange them so that they look comfortable. Place cast iron skillet on top and cook for about 2 minutes.
Okay, there’s not really a reason for putting this picture in other than I was really proud of how this bird turned out. Pretty professional, huh?
Flip with a metal pancake turner. Replace skillet and cook for another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Turn down heat slightly if griddle begins to smoke too much. Place on an oven-safe dish to warm. Done.
Deerslayer and I prepared these on the grill up in Vail. They were a big hit. We used the skillet method on the grill as well.
For an easy and impressive side dish, I served Uncle Ben’s Original Recipe Long Grain and Wild Rice. I prepared it according to directions, adding finely chopped carrots and some frozen peas. Nice.