For a light summer supper -something more elegant than chicken – sautéed quail is a quick flavorful dish. It has a more delicate flavor than some of the other darker meat game birds, such as squab, making it perfect in simple preparations. While the birds marinate for several hours, they are pan fried in minutes. Portions are small, so for a hearty dinner think 1 ½ to 2 birds per person. Two variations are given below. My favorite, quail with figs in red wine, perfectly marries the rich flavors of the quail with the fruitiness of the fig and wine. Serve with a colorful salad and simple rice pilaf, sit outside and enjoy the summer.
Quail with Figs in Red Wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 t herbs de Provence
½ t salt
1 thick slice of bacon, chopped
4 large figs, quartered
2 medium shallots, minced
1 cup full bodied red wine
In a small bowl combine the garlic, olive oil, herbs de Provence and salt. Rub the resulting marinade on all sides of the quail. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours up to overnight.
Cooking the Quail
In a skillet large enough to hold the quail brown the bacon over medium heat. Stir occasionally. When the bacon is browned and most of the fat is rendered, about 8 minutes, remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate leaving the fat in the pan. Increase the heat to medium high. When the pan is hot lay the birds in the pan, skin side down. Place a weighted plate over the meat to help keep the birds flat. Brown for about 4 minutes per side. Remove the quail and place on a platter, breast side down, to allow the juices to flow back into the meat. Cover to keep warm and let rest while preparing the fig sauce.
In the same skillet, reduce heat to medium, return the bacon and add the shallots. Sauté until the shallots soften, about 3 minutes. Add the figs and sauté for 2 -3 minutes to soften. Add the red wine and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Return the quail to the pan to reheat for couple of minutes before serving.
Option II – Sautéed Quail with Dijon Mustard Glaze
3 quail about 6 oz each, butterflied (cut lengthwise through the backbone to flatten the bird)
2 T olive oil for marinating birds
2 T good quality Dijon style mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for pan frying birds
Evenly coat the birds with the olive oil. Then brush both sides with an even coat of the mustard. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and cover with plastic. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours up to overnight.
Cooking the Quail
Heat the oil in the skillet over medium heat. When hot, lay the birds in the pan, skin side down. Cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Place a weighted plate over the meat to help keep the birds flat. Turn and brown the other side until cooked to desired doneness, an additional 3-5 minutes. Place on a platter breast side down to allow the juices to absorb back into the meat. Tent to keep warm and let sit 5 minutes or so and serve.