Ask Casey: Questions on Quail

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on October 24, 2011

Ask Casey: Cooking and Kitchen Questions Answered

My darling boyfriend has become addicted to Chopped, and after a challenge with quail and fiddlehead ferns, he is begging for us to make quail. Can i just make it like a chicken?!

Just about! Quails are delectable little dudes, with rosy meat that’s sort of like the most tender chicken thighs you’ve ever sunk your teeth into. Unlike the larger Cornish game hens, which really are nothing more than adolescent domestic chickens, quails are just small enough that it’s totally cool to eat their miniature drumsticks with your fingers, even at the nice restaurants. (And they’re the California state bird—just lookit the plump little body on that guy!)

quail stuffed animal

none for me, thanks, I'm stuffed

Cooking quail is sometimes a challenge because the birds are so teeny tiny, which heightens the risk of overcooking. The ever-knowledgeable Hank Shaw agrees with me that quails should be brined before roasting, since that helps keep them moist during their brief time under the heat. His simple (really!) recipe for brined roast quail is a great introduction—my rule of thumb on brining timing is about an hour per pound, so I’d keep the birds submerged for 4 hours maximum here.

If you love your boyfriend enough for a splurge, take him up to Joe Beef in Montreal and hope the quail in a foie gras reduction with wild mushrooms is on the menu that night (sadly, it’s not in their new cookbook)—or just buy a pair of birds and braise them in a hearty mushroom sauce for a still-special dinner.

In New York City, quality quail are available at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market, but better supermarkets nationwide like Whole Foods or Wegman’s can order them for you via the butcher department. Ask your butcher to spatchcock or halve each quail for the following recipe:

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