Smothered Quail

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes at least

    6

    servings

Appears in

Southerners like to “smother” everything from chicken to rabbit to quail—meaning they either simply bake their meat slowly in a vessel with a tight-fitting lid or cook it in an iron skillet with a heavy weight on top. You really don’t have to tenderize quail, but marinating it briefly in a mixture of gin, oil, and seasonings does add a bit of mystery to its slightly gamey flavor. One nice thing about smothering quail in this manner, instead of frying, roasting, or grilling it, is that the likelihood of the tiny bird drying out is minimized.

Ingredients

  • 12 dressed quail (fresh or frozen)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup gin
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
  • Tabasco sauce to taste
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 12 strips bacon
  • 12 toast triangles

Method

Season the quail inside and out with salt and pepper and arrange them in a single layer in a large baking dish. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the gin and oil till well blended. Add the onion, celery leaves, and tarragon, season with Tabasco, and stir. Pour the marinade over the quail, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 6 hours, turning the quail twice.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the quail from the marinade and wipe dry with paper towels. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large cast-iron skillet over moderate heat, add half the quail, brown them lightly on all sides, and transfer to a large, shallow baking dish or casserole. Repeat with the remaining butter and quail. Wrap each quail snugly with a strip of bacon, strain the marinade over the birds, cover them with a sheet of aluminum foil, and bake till the quail are very tender, about 45 minutes.

On a large serving platter, arrange each quail on a toast triangle and serve.