This simple recipe uses the leaves, vines, and fruit of native grapes. Serve one bird per person as an appetizer or 2 as a main dish, accompanied by rice cooked in a broth flavored with the quail trimmings. Begin the recipe several hours before serving, defrosting the birds if they are frozen.
Trim the neck and wing tips from the quail. Add the trimmings and any giblets to the water in a small stockpot. Add the herbs and the aromatic vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and cook, uncovered, at a low boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Strain out the solids and reserve the broth.
While the broth is cooking, salt and pepper the birds inside and out, then place in a nonreactive pan. Sprinkle herbs to taste over the quail, then coat with olive oil, rubbing the oil evenly over the flesh. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for several hours.
Start a charcoal fire. Remove the birds from the marinade and set aside. Rinse the preserved grape leaves in warm water, pat dry, then place the leaves in the marinade. Wrap the birds well in oiled leaves, securing with toothpicks if necessary. I simply place the birds in a wire basket designed for grilling fish.
When the coals are hot, add dried grapevine cuttings to the fire if you have them. Wait for them to ignite—they burn hot and quickly. Place the birds on the grill several inches from the fire and grill them for about 10 to 12 minutes, turning them frequently so that they do not burn. Serve them hot right off the grill.
Paula Wolfert in The Cooking of South-West France suggests serving grilled quail with lemon wedges. A small amount of sweet and tart spiced grapes complements the slightly bitter and tealike flavor of the vine leaves and smoke. This dish should be eaten with the hands; be sure to place a finger bowl of water and lemon on the table.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.