With quail season in full swing our thoughts turn to fresh killed broiled and spatchcocked quail. And I love that word “spatchcocked.” Sounds like something a British soccer thug would scream at the opposing team. I can just see them leaning forward on the bleachers screaming, “Spatchcockers!”
The word itself reputedly originated in Ireland where it’s a reference to “dispatching the cock,” as in killing and gutting the old rooster. If you do your own hunting that’s exactly what you’ll have to do to the quail, or multiples thereof if your shot was true.
When I was a kid my daddy would hook up with his oil company buddies, rent some pointers (yes, city slickers can rent dogs!) and head over to a little cabin in the Florida parishes where they could shoot, burp, leave dirty shorts on the doorknob and generally do all things prohibited on home territory. He’d return with a string of quail along with some woodcock and chuckar which my mother would pan fry in as many cast iron skillets as she could rustle up. She’d pour the drippings over the birds and we’d sop it up with those wonderful Pepperidge Farm white dinner rolls (not a baker, me mum…). But I still love those dinner rolls no matter what evil rumors are circulated regarding the nutritional deficiencies of white flour. If you want to be authentic go for biscuits or my version of fried grits. But whatever you do try it this way at least once and you may develop a cidery sweet tooth.
First make the glaze and since it takes awhile to reduce you can do it the day before or start it early on the day of the quail feast. The jelly used here to flavor the glaze is guava. You can use the same amount of another flavor but try guava. It’s just enough different from the usual orange marmalade and it lends a bit of a semi tropical feel to the dish. While that is going you should butterfly the quail, season with thyme, salt, and pepper and run it under the broiler. About four to five inches under does the trick. They cook fast so don’t wander too far.
If you are serving this to man people you may want three per serving depending upon the number and quantity of the sides. If you serve them with fried grits you can go a little lighter on the meat since the grits will occupy a lot of thoracic real estate. However, if you’re serving this to adolescent boy people you’re gonna want to bring down a whole flock.
Excellent on a crisp winter day, run ’em under the broiler, swab with the guava glaze, then plate up.
And don’t forget to have your insignificant other pop the top on the extra bottles of hard cider you’ve bought. Now bring to the table and enjoy.
- For the glaze:
- 2 cups hard apple cider
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons guava jelly
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- For the quail:
- Quail with backbone removed and flattened
- ground thyme,salt and pepper to taste
- For the glaze:
- Simmer cider until reduced by ⅔rds about 30 minutes.
- Add sugar, jelly, and pepper and stir until mixed. Set aside.
- For the quail:
- If the quail has not been butterflied just cut along each side of the backbone, remove and season the quail to taste.
- Broil quail on an oven rack about 4 inches below the heating element skin side up.
- After it browns, remove from oven (about 12 minutes), and pour a small amount of sauce over each quail.
- Return to the broiler for about a minute.