When I was growing up in North Carolina, going quail hunting on Saturday mornings was almost a rite of passage, and a certain guarantee of roasted or fried birds or a rich stew that same evening. Of course, in some areas of the South, quail are generally called bobwhites (a name supposedly derived from the sound the birds make), while in others the term is partridge, despite the fact that America has no true partridge like that found in Europe. About the only person I know who still shoots his own quail is an old friend in Memphis, and when Henry comes back with a half dozen or so birds, you can be sure they’ll end up in a pot and simmered slowly with whatever fresh vegetables he has on hand. Today, what both professional and home cooks alike use are farm-raised quail (fresh or frozen). While they are less robust in flavor than their wild cousins, they’re nevertheless succulent birds that deserve more attention.
On a plate, dredge the quail in the flour, tapping off any excess. In a large, heavy pot, fry the bacon over moderate heat till crisp, drain on paper towels, and set aside. Add the oil to the pot, add the onions and carrot, and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the reserved bacon plus the remaining ingredients, bring to a low simmer, cover, and cook 2 hours, adding a little more water if the stew thickens too much.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.