Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Super Moist Quail for Thanksgiving

While usually turkey, whatever the bird most Americans consume on Thanksgiving, its breast meat is likely to be white. When preparing such birds, my biggest concern is always about keeping that white meat moist without undercooking. Last year, Unique Culinary Adventures shared a turkey breast recipe where a thick coat of seasoned mayonnaise maintained the moistness. Next year, maybe, we'll find a way to render pheasant sufficiently moist. For this year we tackled quail. The result, following scores of failed attempts over many years, is on the mark, almost amazingly so.

Actually, a recipe bearing the secret had been right in front of us all along. The primary deterrent was a stubborn conviction that undercooking provided better assurance of moist meat. Other times, we'd cook the quail sufficiently, but eschew the recipe's instructions to lay bacon slices atop the inside of the split open bird after placing it breast side down in the pan. Breast side up with the bacon covering it seemed like so much better an idea. We were wrong, the recipe was right, and therein lay the secret.

6 quail, plucked, cleaned, and split with scissors
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
3 slices thick bacon
flour for dredging
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Pat quail dry with absorbent paper. Dredge lightly in seasoned flour. Melt butter with oil and try out the bacon until fatty part is translucent but nowhere near cooked. Remove bacon and place aside. Brown quail in the butter, oil, bacon fat mixture over high heat to brown quickly and remove, placing breast side down in a shallow baking dish. Pour in enough sherry to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle quail with rosemary. Cut each bacon slice in half crosswise and place a half slice over exposed underside of each quail. Pour pan juices over all. Bake for exactly 15 minutes.