All along the Carolina and Gulf coasts, cooks have been aware for ages of the natural affinity between game birds and oysters, and never is this marriage more successful than when plump fresh oysters are stuffed inside tender, flavorful quail (or, in some Southern parlance, “partridges” or “bobwhites”) and gently roasted. Since quail are so small and delicate, overcooking them is nothing less than disastrous, so watch the timing carefully to make sure they don’t dry out and toughen. When I once attended a quail roast at a restored plantation in South Carolina, a big to-do was made about the difference between hunted quail, which feed on berries, and those given chicken feed on commercial farms. No doubt the wild birds have more flavor, but I have absolutely no objection to the frozen farm-raised quail now available in many markets. I like to serve the quail in this recipe with plenty of wild rice.
Rinse the quail well inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. In a bowl, squeeze the lemon into the butter, add the tarragon, salt and pepper, and Tabasco, and stir till well blended. Dip the oysters into the butter mixture, dredge lightly in the cornmeal, and stuff 2 into the cavity of each quail. Tie or skewer the birds with the wings and legs close to the bodies, and wrap each with a strip of bacon.
Place the quail on a rack in a large, shallow roasting pan and
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