November 20, 2018
By Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley
Big flavors can come in small packages, and quail are the birds that prove that statement. Not quite as dark as doves but slightly gamier than pheasant, quail have a richness to them that are irresistible when served whole. They are fairly easy to pluck, and so quick and simple to cook. Try not to overcook them, though; you want the quail to stay succulent. Figure about two quail per person.
For the sake of presentation, I kept the quail whole. But if you have ever eaten quail this way, you’ll know that it’s impossible to eat one without using your fingers. This usually isn’t a problem among the rough company I keep, but for a smoother, less messy dining experience, I suggest deboning quail if you have the will and the time. It is a lot of work, but Chef Jacques Pépin has a great how-to video, which you can find here: https://youtu.be/42SKrRkFk7Y.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 4 whole quail, skin on
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Paprika, to taste
- 8 tablespoons butter, divided
- 16 sage leaves
- Small handful golden raisins
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ cup Chardonnay wine
- 1 teaspoon flour
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- Preheat oven to 450-500 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse quail under cold water and pat well with paper towels. Rub birds with olive oil and season the inside and outside well with salt along with a sprinkling of paprika. Lay quail onto a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast quail for 12 minutes.
Tip: Prop up quail with celery or halved carrot sticks – a trick I learned from Hank Shaw at the Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog (https://honest-food.net/roast-quail-recipe/).
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet/saucepan over medium heat. When the butter begins to turn golden, carefully drop sage leaves into the hot butter and fry until crisp. (Make sure your leaves are dry to prevent splattering.) Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Next, heat 4 tablespoons of butter in skillet over medium-high heat (if using the same skillet from previous step, discard the old butter if it has burnt). When quail are done roasting in the oven, quickly brown and baste them in the hot butter to give them a bit more color – do not overcook. Remove the quails and keep warm.
- Reduce heat to medium and add raisins and thyme to the butter. Sauté for 3-5 minutes to slightly brown the raisins, whisk in the flour and cook for about two minutes. Next, whisk in the chardonnay and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes to allow the alcohol to burn off a bit. Take sauce off the heat and whisk in the remaining cold butter and honey to taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard the thyme leaves.
- Serve quail with desired side(s) – polenta is a good choice. Drizzle with the golden raisin sauce and serve immediately.