It’s hard out there for a quail. Or at least it has been for the past few years. Our bobwhites and blues have been under attack from a confluence of harmful forces that seem designed to quell quail reproduction, among them drought, pesticides, and, worst of all, diminishing habitat. And let’s not leave out the parasitic eye worm recently discovered by researchers at Texas Tech, a nematode whose disgusting habits I’ll save for a non-food-related column. This lousy state of affairs has made for some scarce (and no doubt angry) birds and a bevy of disappointed hunters.
But things appear to be looking up for the upland fowl. Texas A&M wildlife researchers report that this quail season, thanks to rain and cooler weather in early summer, may turn out to be the best since 2008. And the A&M AgriLife Extension Service is hosting a series of workshops geared toward educating property owners on quail-friendly land management. The initiative is called Quail Appreciation Days, and in fact there are many ways to appreciate a quail—grilled, baked, fried, smothered. Gentleman Bob, he of the handsome plumage, charming vocalizations, and arduously acquired meat, lends himself to all manner of homage, as in this recipe from Austin’s Hudson’s on the Bend, which has him stuffed with chiles and corn tortilla and drizzled with a smoky cream sauce.
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 tablespoons red onion, finely diced
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lime juice
4 large Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup kernel corn
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 corn tortillas, 1/4-inch dice
6 semi-boneless quail Chipotle Cream Sauce
Sauté garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add lime juice and reduce until dry. Stir in Hatch chiles, bell pepper, corn, brown sugar, salt, and tortillas. Let cool, then stuff each quail. Sear quail on both sides in a hot sauté pan with the rest of the olive oil. Transfer to a 350-degree oven and roast for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with Chipotle Cream Sauce.
CHIPOTLE CREAM SAUCE
2 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 chipotle chiles, stemmed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes Tabasco
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cream
1 bunch cilantro leaves, rough cut
Combine all ingredients except the cream and cilantro in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tomatoes and chiles are soft. Let cool, then transfer to a blender and puree. Return to the saucepan and add cream and cilantro. Mix well, heat through, and adjust the seasonings.
Adapted from Cooking Fearlessly: Recipes and Other Adventures From Hudson’s on the Bend, by Jeff Blank and Jay Moore, with Deborah Harter