Grilled Quail Quesadilla with Smoked Jalapeño Guacamole

  • 05/31/2016
In this recipe, America’s original game bird meets one of America’s favorite pastimes—an old-fashioned summer cook-out. Since the Southwest is often considered prime quail hunting territory, it only makes sense to apply the grilled bird to a regional favorite. This quesadilla dish employs authentic Mexican cheeses and grilled quail to create a savory, cheesy appetizer or meal. Combined with smoked jalapeño guacamole—a refreshing, albeit spicy, treat during summer—your family will enjoy a fiesta of flavors usually only found closer to the border.     
Makes four servings. Requires four full quail, skinless or plucked

Smoked jalapeño guacamole ingredients

  • Three medium avocados, diced
  • One jalapeño, smoked then pureed
  • (Optional: remove seeds and pulp to avoid spice)
  • 1 cup fresh diced tomatoes
  • 2 large cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion

Quail quesadilla ingredients (for each quesadilla)

  • One 10-inch flour tortilla
  • 1/3 cup queso fresco cheese
  • 2 tablespoons cojita cheese
  • 1 poblano, roasted, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
  • 2 to 3 ounces of picked grilled quail meat


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Outside, start coals in chimney starter or start with lighter fluid inside grill. Soak a couple handfuls of applewood chips in water for 5 to 15 minutes. To avoid extra kick from jalapeño, cut off top and remove pulp and seeds (source of spice) with a butter knife.
When oven is heated, spray 4 poblano peppers with canola oil and place on baking dish and put into oven. Rotate peppers after 12 minutes. Roast for 8 to 10 minutes more, until skin loosens from peppers. Remove and place in a covered bowl then into refrigerator for 30 minutes. Once peppers are sweated, sliced open and remove skin along with seeds and rinse peppers. Slice to the size of anchovies. Set aside.
When coals are heated and inside grill, ladle soaked applewood chips overtop. Do your best to keep internal grill temperature between 180 and 220 degrees to maintain proper smoking temperature. Add jalapeño to rim of grill grate and cover grill, supplying only enough ventilation so coals continue to smoke (not burn) applewood chips. Remove jalapeño when it is soft and brown.
Open vents on grill and remove lid. Add quail to grill. Sear all sides and cook thoroughly. Remove and let cool until able to pick meat from bones. Pick thoroughly and set meat aside to add to quesadillas.
Finely dice fresh tomatoes, both yellow onion and red onion. In a food processor or blender, add smoked jalapeño (without stem), 2 large cloves of garlic and 1/2 cup fresh cilantro. Puree thoroughly for a few seconds. Slice open avocados and remove seeds. Cut insides into squares and remove with a large spoon into a large mixing bowl. With a wood muddler, mash and mix avocados to desired consistency. Add food processor contents along with diced tomatoes, yellow onion, lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix, careful not to smash tomatoes, so contents are spread evenly.
Heat a large, flat skillet on medium. On an open tortilla, add cheese, quail meat, sliced poblanos and diced red onions to half tortilla. Fold tortilla over to close. Spray both sides with canola oil and place in heated skillet. Flip when golden brown and remove once both sides are cooked. Slice and serve with guacamole. 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
Photo Credit: Dara Hennessy