This is a basic roast quail recipe that can serve as a stepping stone for other, fancier recipes. Once you know how to properly roast a quail, you can then play with glazes or marinades — even though I am not normally a fan of marinades, they will work with quail because the birds are so small.
I include a brining step here if you like brining. If you do brine your quail, they will be more tender and you can cook them a few minutes longer — but you run the risk of them becoming too salty. Don’t brine too long! If you don’t brine, the meat will have a nicer texture, but you have less room for error when you roast them.
How to serve these? With any wild game sauce, or with a simple squeeze of lemon. Add the starch and veggie of your choice and a big white wine or dry rose and you’re in business.
Figure on 2 quail per person as a main course and 1 per person as an appetizer. Oh, and put a bowl out for bones. Quail are best eaten with your fingers.
Serves 2, and can be scaled up.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 4 cups white wine or water
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 whole quail
- Lard, butter or olive oil
- 2 celery sticks
- Black pepper
- If you choose to brine your quail, boil the water or wine with the kosher salt and bay leaves, then turn off the heat and let cool. Submerge the quail in this brine for 2-6 hours.
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. This will take a little while for most ovens, up to 30 minutes. While the oven is preheating, take the quail out of the fridge and pat them dry. Coat with lard, olive oil or melted butter (your quail will be browner with melted butter) and salt generously. Set aside at room temperature while the oven heats.
- When the oven is hot, get a small roasting pan or cast-iron frying pan and set the quail in it. They will want to tip over, so steady them with cut pieces of the celery stick. Try to prevent the quail from touching each other to speed the cooking process.
- Roast the quail in the oven for 10-15 minutes. The lower end of the spectrum will give you quail that are juicy, succulent and a little pink on the inside. The higher end of the spectrum will give you a fully cooked quail, which is OK, but which I find boring. Your choice.
- When you take the quail out of the oven, place on a cutting board and loosely tent with foil for 5-10 minutes. Use this time to make the wild game sauce of your choice, or just squirt lemon juice on the birds before serving.