Eating Quail

Lots of critters lived in and around the backyard of our Arizona home. The arroyos (dry riverbed that holds water for brief periods) behind our lot invited snakes, javalinas (a sort of peccary, or wild hog), lizards, and an assortment of insects, some almost as large as my cat. Well, almost! And did I mention birds? Owls, roadrunners, and other desert specimens, but the cutest by far was… oh my. And here I am writing about their consumption.

Each spring, near the corner of the yard, tucked away where I could hear chirping but not locate the nest, a little family of quail lived in the contentment of a ready water supply: our sprinkler system.

When the chicks were old enough to walk, the mama would lead her family through a patch of grass, hopefully in a quest to rid me of some of the bugs! First came the queen mother, and hopping behind, a long row of children—the picture of harmonious sibling relations.

Then, a revelation: Have you seen Babette’s Feast? One of the menu items in this film is “Cailles en Sarcophage” (quail in puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce). It reminded me of the “sing a song of sixpence” nursery rhyme. You know, the one with four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie? Except for the part where the queen gets her nose snipped off (an historic political message, I’m sure), my interest was piqued.

Interestingly…

A few weeks ago, I was taken out to dinner at my favorite restaurant, The Fort. And what should be on the menu but… as said, I was curious.

The drumstick was as big as my thumb.

Naturally, I wondered how to eat the thing. And by the time the little bird was in my digestive track, I was home and did some research. Not that it’s going to do me any future good. One quail dinner is enough (that night I felt like the wicked witch who turned children into gingerbread).

Since quail (New World Quail, to be specific) are prolific in the American southwest, they were certainly consumed by the people in that region for thousands of years. (Click HERE to read an Aztec myth that involves quail.)

My quail was served with huckleberry jam. I wondered if a similar component would compliment other poultry? After all, a traditional turkey dinner includes cranberry relish, sometimes spiked with oranges. Since I love to cook, I decided to create my own version with chicken. If you’re interested, here’s my recipe, created in memory of the quails I once knew but using a slightly less attractive bird (subjective, I know!), the chicken.

Cheery Chicken Salsa

1 Pineapple chopped

1 Mango chopped

3 Limes juiced

3 Jalapenos chopped

1 lb Chicken thighs, boneless

A little oil for the pan

Salt to taste

Mash ½ the fruit in a bowl

(Best to do this while singing “Freebird” with Lynyrd Skynyrd–a love song. Look it up!)

Spoon fruit mash over chicken and marinate for two hours (lots of time to dance).

Heat oil in pan.

Take the chicken out of its marinade bath and grill until it’s no longer pink.

Sprinkle with chopped jalapenos and salt.

Serve chicken in a warm tortilla adorned with the remaining fruit.

If you have a recipe for fruited poultry, let me know. I’ll make it, and if my picky husband likes it, I’ll post a picture on my blog.

Happy eating!

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