It’s quail season in much of the Southwest, so we thought we’d share this delightful way to prepare them. You can substitute with chicken breasts, but they are thicker and would take longer to cook. Filet them in half before you start so each piece is thinner before coating and frying.
Across the Southwest, quail season dates and limits vary by state, but in general it lasts through February each year. Quail are small, fast, elusive, and very quick to disappear, so hunting them is a real challenge.
Quail populations will dwindle during times of drought, when they may only lay a single clutch of eggs. Wild quail can lay up to five clutches a year so the population rebounds quickly when rain falls and ample food is available. In times of abundance, the birds gather in coveys of up to 60 or so. Keeping this in mind, hunters with an eye to conservation will avoid shooting at small coveys of less than 10 birds.
If you would like to learn more about how people are working to save quail habitat, the non-profit Quail Forever is dedicated to the conservation of quail, pheasants, and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education, and land management policies and programs. They encourage planting native plants that naturally feed birds rather than using human-stocked feeding stations. On her Gardening With Soule (in the land of El Sol) website, Jacqueline discusses native plants that quail enjoy and are easy to grow, like the jojoba.
A number of people enjoy raising quail instead of chickens and prefer the flavor of the eggs and meat. We discussed quail eggs last week in our review of the book Epic Eggs.
Sweet & Sour Quail Breasts
1 pound quail breasts
1 egg, scrambled
1/2 cup flour, or mesquite meal
1/2 tsp salt
2 to 4 tbsp cooking oil
1 - 16 ounce can pineapple chunks, reserve 1/3 cup of the juice/syrup from the canning
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into ½ inch chunks
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, leave whole or cut in half
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup ketchup - substitution BBQ sauce or tomato paste with 1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup cold water
2 tbsp cornstarch or other thickening agent
Drain pineapple chunks, reserving juice/syrup.
Combine flour and salt.
Dip quail breasts first in scrambled egg then into the seasoned flour or mesquite flour to coat.
Cook breasts in hot oil until crispy on all sides. In cast iron on a propane stove, high heat, this is a total of 3 minutes.
Remove pan from heat but leave the breasts in it to keep warm. If you wish you can put them on a paper towel to drain.
Sweet & Sour Sauce
Pour honey, vinegar, soy sauce, pineapple juice, and ketchup into a 3 quart saucepan and blend.
Cook over medium to high heat and bring to a boil.
While this is happening you can chop your vegetables.
Do get your cornstarch ready while the sauce comes to a boil.
Mix cornstarch with the cold water to avoid clumping.
When sauce is boiling, slowly add the corn starch mixture stirring constantly.
Cook roughly 5 minutes more, still stirring constantly, until thickened.
Add the pineapple chunks, green pepper, onion, and tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Or longer – this is a matter of personal preference.
Place quail on a bed of cooked rice, quinoa, or grain of choice and ladle on your sweet & sour blend.
Father Kino may have dined on quail as he journeyed through the area. Learn more about the herbs of 300 years ago that are still useful today in Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). For your copy visit Savorist Monica King Saturdays at the Arivaca’s Farmers Market, or come to one of Savorist Jacqueline Soule’s free lectures. We try to mention both on our Facebook page. The book link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there we might get a few pennies.
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