Bobwhite breasts were the first wild game meat I attempted to cook. I’d shoot them in the horse pasture at the family home with pellet guns during my formative years of hunting. Of course, this was 15, 16 years ago when we had quail left in Florida.
As I recall, I fired up the big smoker, lit a small, yet raging fire and placed the bacon wrapped birds on the grill and smothered with barbeque sauce. The outcome was a crusty meatball somewhere in the range of well-done and dusty. But, hey, I cooked it myself.
I got better with more attempts, but my supply of quail flamed out when I went to college. For all five years I got my grubby hands on the meat only once. I pan-fried the breasts in Italian bread crumbs, and they were pretty good.
Truth be told, quail is my favorite game meat. Flavorful, easy to cook and accepted around the table, it is the tops in my book. Unfortunately, hunting the buggers gets trampled by other outdoor pursuits. I’ve eaten it numerous times since college cooked by others, but I’ve not been in the kitchen with my own until we returned with our bag from December’s Georgia quail hunt.
Before I get into the details of how I ended up cooking ‘em, know I am a recipe poacher. Nothing I have is original. I search for recipes online or in books, find a general concept and adapt to my tastes.
I knew I wanted to grill my quail for two reasons:
1. Wild game, unless you are making a stew or spaghetti, should be grilled.
2. All the baked or roasted quail recipes required a laundry list of ingredients that resembled something a witch would toss in a cauldron to create a poison or help her gaze into the future. “One tbs. currant jelly, 2tbs. grape seed oil, 1 tail of newt...”
There comes a point of diminishing returns after you pass the four ingredient marker.
I wanted kinda fancy, but not just the wrapped-in-bacon gimmick I use on everything from venison to sea duck, though I like the concept.
So, I discovered on HuntFishCook.com a recipe by Scott Leysath that fit these criteria – Grilled Quail Breast with Cheese and Prosciutto.
Prosciutto is a cured, salty, dry ham that is excellent in dishes like chicken cordon bleu. Using that line of thought, I substituted the gruyere cheese with Swiss, since ham and Swiss go together - and because a brick of gruyere was $13.
Also, instead of the Italian seasoning Mr. Leysath recommends, I substituted some Mrs. Dash and generous shakes of Ms. G’s Cajun Shaker which will, let me tell you, make your eyes sparkle. Add these two fine ladies to some olive oil and set aside for a marinade.
Take your whole quail and cut the breast halves off the bone, then cut the thighs and legs away from the remnants. Toss all of this in the marinade for an hour or two.
After this, take a slice of Prosciutto and place two breast halves on one of the end of the meat and top with a cube of Swiss cheese. Roll them up and place a toothpick or bamboo skewer through the middle. Leave the thighs as is. No point rolling them in anything unless you are trying to murder your guests by way of choking on hidden quail bone.
Heat the grill to medium-high. Place the thighs and legs to one side and the roll-ups to another. The thighs take only 3-4 minutes to cook and serve as a nice appetizer - toss them in some Frank's Hot Wing Sauce if you're feeling wild. The breasts shouldn’t take more than 8-10 minutes, and that may be overdoing it. Once the cheese bubbles out and the ham is browned, you’re done.
The result is a spicy, salty treat that would go great with an ice-cold brew.
If you want to see Scott Leysath cook this online, check out the video here.
And here is the contact information for Ms. G’s Cajun Shaker:
325 Mills Avenue
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana 70517