Fergus Henderson’s Perfect Roast Quail

from The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson

The quail unfortunately falls into a kind of bird purgatory; it is not a game bird, though some describe it as such, but is now a thoroughly farmed bird, so not glamorous enough to warrant the “hands on” battling that people feel justified to exert on grouse and partridge, and is denied from joining the chicken’s gang, as it is seen to be too fiddly to eat.  Then finally, to kick the quail while it’s down, people say it has no flavor.

Put all this behind you and let me put forward the case for the joys of a bowl of thoroughly roasted quails.

to serve four

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

10 quails (as there are always those who end up eating 3)

olive oil

Season the quails inside and out very thoroughly, being especially heavy on the salt.  In a hot frying pan, with a small splash of olive oil, brown the quails all over.  When you are satisfied with their color place them on a lightly oiled roasting panand place in a hot 425 degree oven for 20 inutes or so.

Despite the quail’s fragile reputation it is robust when it comes to cooking, not having the drying out potential of the partridge or the angst of getting that perfect moment of blush in a grouse breast.  The quail wants plenty of cooking, to the point that its legs can be easily pulled from the ribcage, and the flesh sucked off the legbone.  Serve the quail salty and well done in a bowl in the middle of the table and envourage some hands-on eating.

Serve with a bowl of lentils or simply a watercress salad.

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