Since moving back from San Francisco to Orlando, I have been trying to find and cook with local and regional ingredients. A colleague at work is both an environmentalist and a sportsman. He offered quail that he had harvested earlier in Georgia. I took my friend up on the his offer and he graciously included a bag of shelled lady peas with the quail.
Quail are relatively small ground dwelling birds. Most quail in the southeast are the Bobwhite variety. These typically stand about 6” and weigh just less than 1/2 pound. The birds I was given were indeed Bobwhites each weighting about 6 ounces dressed. Two birds per serving is about right.
With quail in hand, I decided to use these to cook these by braising in a meat broth flavored with tomato,fennel,leek and finished with a touch of lemon. For broth, I used a homemade Italian style brodo that I keep in the freezer for use when needed. A packaged, low sodium chicken broth can be substituted. But, homemade broth is always a better choice. A recipe for brodo can be found here.
Quail can dry out when overcooked so braising in a pan sauce is a great way to retain moisture when cooking these birds. The technique is straightforward. The birds are dusted with flour and browed in a fat consisting of butter and olive oil. The browed quail are then set aside and most of the fat is drained from the pan before deglazing and sautéing the leek and fennel. Lastly, broth is added, flavored with tomato paste and lemon before the birds are returned to finish cooking in the liquid.
I must say the pan sauce used to braise the quail turned out amazing. The quail were served with the lady cream peas and a simple salad consisting of hearts of palm with grape tomatoes, parsley and a mustard vinaigrette. The field peas were prepared by first rendering a couple of slices of bacon, followed by a quick saute of a little onion and garlic. The peas were then cooked until tender in broth. A recipe for field peas can be found here.
Cornish hen can be substituted if quail are not available. I might cut the hens in half or quarters though. This recipe using quail serves two.
- Four dressed and cleaned quail, about 6 ounces each
- Flour for dusting the quail
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- One slice thick cut bacon cut in 1/2” pieces
- Two tablespoons everyday olive oil
- 1 small leek white parts sliced into thin half moons
- 1 small fennel bulb sliced into thin half moons fronds reserved for garnish
- Splash of champagne vinegar for deglazing the pan
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 cups homemade brodo or packaged low sodium chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Using paper towels pat the quail dry then lightly dust with flour and season with salt and pepper.
- Render the sliced bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add butter and olive oil to the pan and bring to medium high heat before adding the quail. Cook the quail for about three minutes turning frequently so that all sides become golden brown. Remove the quail to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside.
- Drain all but two tablespoons of the oil and butter from the pan and return to a medium heat. Add one handful each of the leeks and fennel then saute about 3 minutes or until the leeks are transparent. Season with salt and pepper.
- Deglaze the pan with vinegar and add the white wine. Cook until deducted by half.
- Add the broth to the pan along with tomato paste. When the both his heated just below a boil add the lemon juice and return the quail to the pan. Cook covered for about seven minutes or until done.
- Place two quail on each of two serving plates. Ladle with brazing liquid and garnish with fennel fronds.