Quail is a favorite of mine, and it lends itself to all sorts of ethnic flavors in the kitchen. But my first experience with the little birds was not auspicious. It was at a fancy restaurant in Aspen, Colorado, where I lived for many years. I was out with my boyfriend and his family, and when I saw quail on the menu, which I had never tried, I couldn’t resist. I don’t remember how they were prepared, but the little birds were succulent and I was chewing away when I felt a sudden stab of excruciating pain in my mouth.
Turns out a splinter of bone had speared me in the gum. The pain was so intense I nearly passed out. So I ducked my head low and was fortunately able to grab the end of the sliver and pull it out. I sterilized the wound with a gulp (or six) of wine, and left the rest of my dinner on my plate, and fingernail marks on my boyfriend’s arm, where I’d grabbed him, hard.
Foodie that I am, I got over it, and now enjoy quail whenever I have the chance. I particularly remember ancho chili-rubbed quail at (I think) Mustards’s Grill in Napa Valley several years ago, and a Northern Italian dish of braised quail with grappa served over buckwheat polenta I made myself last winter.
And I recently enjoyed the Asian accented version pictured here, at my friend Anne’s house. She grilled these outside, and they were delicious. Her marinade included soy sauce, cilantro, sherry, lemongrass and Thai spices. The birds were served with rice and spears of fresh mango, plus a tomato salad on the side. For wine, I’d brought along a dry Bastianich Rosato (Italian for “rosé”) from Wegmans, which was just the right choice. Of course, I drank mine purely for pleasure this time!