“Eating quail with my fingers and nibbling slowly around the bones so I don’t bite into a pellet, made me feel like I was on Naked and Afraid, and just got my first bite of food after a week in the bush.”
—Comment from one of my dinner guests
June is one of my favorite months of the year, as spring days give way to summertime! Nothing could be better than to welcome this month with a very special dinner, featuring my favorite gamebird: quail. As I pulled these birds out of the freezer, my thoughts went wild with what I could do to make these culinary delights taste fresh and light, like the summer days of June.
To get in the spirit of cooking these amazing, delectable birds, I prepared the table with fresh white flowers, contrasted with rustic candleholders that I embellished with quail egg decorations and some small nests filled with quail eggs. The gold flatware gave it a little step up, while the basket chargers brought out a casual touch. After all, it is perfectly acceptable to eat this delicate bird with your fingers! We also reminded our guests that eating very slowly is important so as to avoid biting into a shotgun pellet, since this was truly a gun-to-table dinner!
THE COOKING METHOD
After ruling out pan frying or oven roasting the birds, I decided that the best cooking choice would be to fire up the outdoor grill. Nothing could be easier than chopping up some fresh thyme, sage, and garlic and adding these herbs to olive oil to prepare a marinade. No recipe needed here: Just cover the birds for an hour or longer to let the beautiful flavors marry into the birds. I added sea salt and freshly crushed peppercorns to the birds, which required about 15 minutes to come to room temperature before being placed on the grill. Cooking time ranges from 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.
THE SIDE DISHES
The side dish I chose to serve was oven-roasted fingerling potatoes, since they are very easy to prepare and are always a crowd favorite. After washing and drying the potatoes, I cut them lengthwise, added some sliced shallots and crushed garlic, and tossed them with olive oil and herbs. Sea salt and pepper, along with your favorite herbs, will ensure that they will be very flavorful. I put them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and roasted them in the oven for 25 minutes.
Nothing says spring better than fresh dandelion salad! I have written many times about my obsession with these spunky greens. While many people consider dandelions nuisance weeds, they are actually nutrition powerhouses and considered superfoods. To prepare the dandelion greens, I washed and dried them thoroughly and tossed them with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon.
TOMATO, MOZZARELLA AND FRESH BASIL
A special summer meal would not be complete without a platter of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil, dressed with olive oil. It is wonderful with or without balsamic vinegar. Besides making a stunning salad, this tasty side is refreshing and nutritious.
CELEBRATING THE HARVEST
Even though hunting season has been over for months, we look forward with great anticipation to being able to enjoy the harvest. It seemed like yesterday when we hunted quail at George Hi Plantation, and the memories came flooding back about the amazing time we had and the beautiful quail we brought home with us.
Written for Waccamaw Outdoor Magazine June 2019 Issue