Some of my recipes come to me while I am hunting and traveling, seeing the local flavors, what is available in any given area while I am on the hunt, or finding some sudden or unforeseen muse, which brings it all together and offers me the inspiration to create something delicious. Other times I simply have a craving for straightforward, traditional foods or some comfort food item which I haven’t had in a while. This recipe is clearly the latter of the two. I am a huge fan of fried chicken or almost anything that is southern fried in the proper way.
I can’t think of a more traditional or often prepared recipe for wild quail than a good-ol’ fashioned buttermilk fried recipe. As is often the case with my recipes, I tried to bring together some other flavors which would complement the fried quail, both in flavor and tradition. The only thing with a more “southern” vibe than fried quail, would have to be grits, and this version of grits does a killer job of offering different textures, richness and flavor to perfectly compliment the quail and hot honey.
Buttermilk Fried Wild Quail with Hot Honey over Crispy Jalapeño Cheddar Grits
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 6 to 12 hours
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
For Fried Quail:
• 6 whole, plucked quail
• 3 cups buttermilk
• 2 tbsp hot sauce (I used Cholula, but you can use your favorite to taste)
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp ground black pepper
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tbsp ground sage
• 1 tbsp garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tbsp baking powder
• 4 cups of oil for frying (canola or peanut work well)
• 2 cups of grits (Not quick grits)
• 2 cups while milk
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/4 cup butter, unsalted, plus extra for greasing the dish
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 16 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded
• 2 jalapeños, diced
• salt & pepper - to taste
• Butter for frying
For Hot Honey:
• 1/2 cup honey
• 3 to 5 tbsp. of your favorite hot sauce (to taste)
***Take a few minutes to read the recipe through, as the quail needs top marinate for quite some time. Plan your preparation so that the grits are cooked and set to cool in time, so that you can simply cut and fry the grit cakes to go along with your quail once it is done. The hot honey can also be made before hand, so that you are all set to plate while the quail and grits are still hot and crispy.***
Instructions for Quail:
1. Rinse the quail, inside and out, under cold running water. Pat dry and set aside.
2. In a large glass mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, salt & pepper and whisk well to combine.
3. Place the quail into the buttermilk mixture, cover and refrigerate for 6 hours minimum, 12 hours or overnight is even better.
4. After the quail has marinated, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and set on the counter.
5. In a deep-sided frying pan, or Dutch oven, heat the oil to medium-high heat (350 degrees)
6. In a pie pan, or shape dish, add the flour, sage, garlic powder, onion powder and baking powder. Mix well to combine.
7. Dredge on quail at a time in the flour mixture. Shaking off excess buttermilk, but making sure they are still wet. Cover completely with flour, until the all of the buttermilk mixture has been well coated with flour on all sides.
8. Set the coated quail aside and repeat until all quail are done.
9. When oil is up to temp, fry the quail in small batches, until golden brown. If poked with a sharp knife, the juices coming out should run clear.
10. Place fried quail on a baking rack, with paper towels beneath, until all quail are fried.
Instructions for Grits:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Lightly butter an oven safe baking dish.
3. Combine the milk and heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
4. Add the grits and stir well with a whisk.
5. Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
6. Remove from the heat and add the butter.
7. Add the eggs while whisking quickly, so that they combine, but do not scramble.
8. Fold in the cheddar cheese, jalapeños and salt and pepper to taste.
9. Once combined well, scrape grits into the greased baking dish and bake for 1 hour.
10. Remove from oven and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to cool. I often do this the night before and chill overnight.
11. Cut grits into serving sized squares.
12. Melt butter in a hot frying pan, and cook the grit cakes until they are golden brown and crispy on the edges.
Instructions for the Hot Honey:
1. Warm the honey in a sauce pan until it begins to thin a bit. (do not boil)
2. Whisk in the hot sauce
3. Set aside and allow flavors to blend. This can be prepared well in advance and stored in a closed container in a cool, dark place.
Place a grit cake on the plate, top with a fried quail. Top generously with hot honey.