One of the highlights of my professional life was being able to cook at the James Beard House. I was allowed to present my own menu, so I really wanted it to speak from my roots. Muscadine glazed quail was one of the courses I selected, and I am certainly glad that I did. It’s a very simple recipe to execute for a showstopper of a dinner. Quail is really not as well-known as it deserves to be, so I hope you try this recipe in order to appreciate an American treasure of a game bird.
Quail and the South
When you grow up in the South, quail is the epitome of a game bird. Crisp fall and winter days spent quail hunting with amazing pointers or spaniels etch themselves in your memory. Some of my husband’s fondest memories are of him and his grandfather going quail hunting. His grandfather was of the generation that had to hunt to help put food on the dinner table, and through his life was never without a well-trained pointer. Those dogs are so amazing just to watch as they creep up on a covey of quail and then freeze until asked to “jump” the covey. So, it is quite simply, endemic in a southerner’s make-up to have a fondness for quail.
Muscadine grapes are a native American wild grape. Scuppernong is another name for them. There are several varieties of these grapes, but they are most often used for their juice, as they are rather thick-skinned. “Muscadine wine” is a quite popular use for muscadines, but so is muscadine jelly. I made my glaze out of a muscadine jelly, and if you can find some you’ll be happy if you follow suit. If you can’t find any, use an apple jelly, grape jelly or even red pepper jelly in the recipe and you’ll still have fantastic results.
Serving Muscadine glazed quail
Muscadine glazed quail is really a simple dish and can be served with any number of sides. Most major supermarkets now carry quail in the frozen meats section. If not, ask the meat market manager to bring you in some of this delicious bird. Generally, allow 2 per person. I served this with sweet potato hash, but any boldly flavored side will work well. My recipe for Poblano Creamed Corn would go perfectly as well. I really hope you try this, you’ll be happy you did!
- 8 quail
- 1.5 TBS olive oil
- 2 TBS kosher salt
- 1.5 TBS ground black pepper
- 1 TBS pink peppercorns, lightly cracked
- 1 TBS granulated garlic
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp chipotle powder
For the Glaze
- 1 cup muscadine jelly
- 1.5 TBS balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBS rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
For the Glaze
- In a small saucepan, mix all ingredients. Warm until the jelly has melted. Set aside.
For the Quail
- Preheat grill to a two-zone fire with a medium-hot zone and a cool zone. Oil Grates.
- In a mortar and pestle, lightly crush pink peppercorns. Add peppercorns, salt, black pepper, garlic, onion, and chipotle powder to a small bowl and stir to blend.
- Brush each quail with olive oil. Season all surfaces of quail, especially the skin side. Allow to sit 15 minutes, skin side up, before griling.
- Grill quail on both sides, starting with skin side down. Cook for 3 minutes, turn 45 degrees, cook for 1.5 minutes, flip quail over. Check the temperature on quail breasts. As the temperature is approaching 150 degrees, begin to brush each quail with glaze. Allow to finish cooking (165 degrees internal temperature.) Move quail to cool zone if necessary. Brush quail with glaze again right before serving.