As quail season comes to a close, there remains the ever-important question: how to best enjoy the flavors harvested coveys have to offer? In my opinion, hunters owe it to themselves to pluck their birds, as skin seals in flavors and juices during cooking. Additionally, skinless birds lack crucial fats that make flavoring this quarry a unique experience.
In this recipe, the culinary technique of braising helps create a great-tasting hunter-style gravy, while also slightly tenderizing the birds. Adding bacon and bourbon into the mix only improves an already delectable meal.
Makes two servings.
Bourbon-braised quail and gravy
Roasted Yukon potatoes
- 4 whole quail, plucked, approximately 18 ounces
- Bacon grease from 8 ounces of diced bacon
- 1 cup shallots, sliced julienne
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons freshly minced garlic
- 8 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 cup bourbon
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 5 Tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 to 6 medium Yukon potatoes, approximately 18 ounces
- 8 ounces applewood-smoked deli counter bacon, diced
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon white or black pepper
Dice Yukon potatoes and place in a large pot. Cover the potatoes with water and set the heat to high. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to water and boil. Once water reaches a boil, wait 5 minutes, test texture—potatoes should have tender texture but not turn to mush when poked with fork. Drain water. Leave potatoes in pot until bacon is finished. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Dice half pound of deli-counter bacon (easier when bacon is very cold). On medium heat, in a large, deep sauté pan, cook bacon bits and render fat in pan, until bits exhibit semi-crisp texture (approximately 10 minutes). With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove bits and set aside on napkin-covered plate.
Lightly salt and pepper all sides of quail. Place quail in pan and sear to a golden brown in bacon grease. Remove quail after browned. Deglaze pan with 1/2 cup bourbon. Add shallots, mushroom, garlic and butter and sauté until shallots are soft (approximately 5 minutes). Add another 1/2 cup bourbon, chicken stock, vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir liquids. Place quail back into pan to braise. Turn and flip every 10 minutes.
In a 10-inch-by-15-inch baking pan (or similar-size baking pan), place Yukon potatoes and lightly smash or crumble. Add bacon bits. Place in oven on a low rack to roast for 30 minutes. (Note: Baby carrots pair well with this dish and require the same amount of time as potatoes to roast).
After potatoes have roasted and quail has braised for 30 minutes, turn oven to high broil and tend to quail. Remove quail from liquids, set aside in a warming drawer or on a plate covered with aluminum foil. (Do not place quail in the oven with the potatoes.) Add 5 tablespoons flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to liquids and stir thoroughly. Additionally, stir broiling potatoes every 3 to 5 minutes. After 15 minutes of broiling potatoes and stirring flour into gravy, potatoes should be golden brown and gravy should have a thick texture. If necessary, salt gravy to taste.
To serve, place two quail on each plate, along with roasted potatoes and cover with gravy. Garnish with freshly minced parsley and enjoy!
Former line cook and passionate denizen of the outdoors, Jack Hennessy is the author of the blog “Braising the Wild.” He lives with his wife in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @WildGameJack or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BraisingtheWild.
Photo Credit: Dara Hennessy