Ask Casey: Questions on Quail

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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  1. KT says

    I’m on the case. Dickson’s will be seeing us soon.

    In other newsYOU CAN EAT THE DRUMSTICKS WITH YOUR FINGERS!??? Said boyfriend was just lectured about not using utensils when handling those babies.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      KT, your esteemed editor here has eaten quails with her fingers at such lofty places as Montreal’s Joe Beef and NYC’s Prune, and no diners have looked at her askance for doing so. (Of course, in those places, all the other diners are likely blinded by the awesomesauce food on their own plates, so…. )

      Deb, I love me some Himalayan pink salt and am also a fan of smoked salt as a cool finishing touch. Little gamey quails might benefit from a touch of that too!

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      I am sorry to say that I don’t own that wok… that’s how the gorgeous little quails (covered in foie sauce) were presented to me at Joe Beef.

      Sheryl, you can definitely braise chicken thighs in place of the quail if you’re feeling squeamish.

  2. says

    Do you have any sources in Boston? Does quail taste anything like pigeon? I had that in France and really loved it cooked with lardons and petit pois.

  3. says

    in the past I’ve seen signs at the Whole Foods in Cambridge (both the big one by the river and the one on Prospect Street) that they have or will order quail.

  4. NoPotCooking says

    I just can’t seem to like quail. There’s too many bones somehow. I like the taste but maybe it just seems like too much work to me?

  5. KAILAN SMITH says

    Trying this tonight… We’ll see how it is, I’ve never made Quail but my husband brought a couple home so of course I get to make it. I really hope its good because I never thought I would ever eat it. :)