Sunday 8 June 2014

Crispy Southern-Style Buttermilk Quail with Roasted Wedges and Zesty Coleslaw

Quail is pretty much just miniature chicken, but with this added mystique that makes it perfect for whenever you want to make a meal instantly fancy. People will be all “Oh my god, quail! So fancy!” As proof of this, I made goddamn fried chicken, but with quail. And somehow it seems fancy.

If quail is expensive where you live (or just plain hard to get your hands on), you can in fact just use chicken drumsticks. They take a little longer to cook though, so keep that in mind.

You can see in the picture that I put the coleslaw right up front. That was to trick you, and myself, into believing that this meal isn’t just a big pile of grease. There are also lemon wedges on the plate. They are a yellow lie, used to balance out all the brown. At no point did I squeeze those.

Less talk, more BIRD MURDER!

    Pour buttermilk into a big pot and add a bunch of herbs and spices. Stab your quails all over, then take out a big knife and chop ‘em in half, right down the middle. Throw them into the wet mix and leave in the fridge for as long as you want.

    Take the quail out of the pot and leave to drain a bit. Pour enough oil into a heavy pan to be able to deep-fry and start heating it up. Spoon flour and salt into a plastic bag, then throw the quail in and shake ‘em around to coat, a couple at a time. Drop them into the hot oil, fry for 5 minutes, turn, fry for 5 more. Drain and serve.

    For fast, perfect wedges, scrub baby potatoes, prick the skins and microwave until slightly soft. Cut into quarters and place on a baking tray. Season and coat with a little olive oil. Cook in the oven at 200ºC for 10 minutes, shuffle, then for another 10.

    Coleslaw is shredded cabbage, onion and grated carrot with mayonnaise, lemon juice and a little pepper mixed through it. You figure it out.

You lost me at “quail”

Alright, but this meal really is quite straight-forward, so you’ll have no problem. Let’s see what we need.


For the Fried Quail
  • quail (or chicken drumsticks), as many as you want
  • 1/2 litre of buttermilk
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 3-4 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt

For the Potato Wedges
  • about 10 baby potatoes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

For the Coleslaw
  • 1/2 head of cabbage (the crunchy kind)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • pepper

You’ll also need vegetable oil (or canola oil, or any other high smoke-point oil) for deep-frying, and a large heavy pan to do it in, if possible.

    To start, pour your buttermilk into a container large enough to fit all your meat, but preferably small enough to fit in your fridge. Crush the garlic and add it, along with your herbs and spices, into the buttermilk and mix. You can really add any flavours that you like at this point, the listed ingredients are just a suggestion. Take out your quail and stab them all over, so that the flavours go deeper than just the skin. Using a large, heavy knife, chop them straight down the breastbone, giving two equal halves. Put them in the buttermilk mix, making sure they’re coated. Stick the whole lot in the fridge and leave to marinate for at least one hour, but the longer the better.

    In the meantime, make your coleslaw. Home-made coleslaw is incredibly cheap and easy to make. I love coleslaw with everything, but I’d sorta gone off it since the store-bought stuff is such a rip-off. They also put frankly ludicrous amounts of mayonnaise on it. When you do it yourself, you can make it just the way you like it. All you have to do is finely shred the cabbage and onion using a sharp knife, and peel and grate the carrot. Add in as much mayo as you want, squeeze in the juice of your lemon and season with some black pepper. Mix them all together in a big bowl, and you’re done. It’ll keep in the fridge for maybe a week.

    Just before you start deep-frying your quail, prepare the potato wedges. Scrub the potatoes, leaving the skins on. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC. Here’s the trick to making awesome wedges at home. We’re going to par-cook them in the microwave, ensuring that the centre is fluffy while the outside gets crisped in the oven. Prick the potatoes with a fork so they don’t burst and microwave them for, I dunno, 5 minutes. It’ll vary a lot depending on your microwave, the size of the potatoes and how many you put in. What you want is for them to give slightly when you squeeze them.

    Once they’re ready, cut them into quarters and throw them on a baking tray or two. Don’t crowd them. Sprinkle over the paprika and salt and pepper. If you like ‘em spicy, chilli powder works great too. Now coat them in a little olive oil. If you’re particular, arrange them skin-side down, so that crisps the most, but it doesn’t really matter. Put them in the oven for about 20 minutes, shaking them halfway through so they don’t burn on one side.

    While they’re in the oven, it’s time to cook the quail. Take them out of the buttermilk and leave them to drain a little. You can use a colander, but to be honest a plate is fine. Pour about 2cm of oil into your large, heavy pan and start to heat it up. The heat of the oil is the most important part of deep-frying. Too high, and it will smoke, becoming unpleasant and “burning” your food. Too low, and it will seep into the meat. Deep-fried food should not actually be greasy, the food is cooked in it’s own steam. Oil and water don’t like each other, so the moisture inside the food can’t get out and the oil can't get in. Only the surface or batter should absorb oil. About 180ºC is good for deep-frying, but unless you have a cooking thermometer… You’ll just have to guess. Remember, it must be hot, but DON’T LET THE OIL SMOKE.

    So, while the oil is heating, throw your flour and salt into a ziplock bag. Take two of your quail halves and put them in the bag. Seal it and shake. Take them out and do the same with the rest until they’re all coated. If you like your batter extra crispy, wait a couple minutes for the first layer to absorb some of the moisture from the meat, then go for round two in the bag.

    All that’s left now is to fry these babies! Gently drop them, breast-down, into the hot oil, and it should bubble rapidly. Don’t crowd the pan, adding too many at a time will drop the oil temp, which is not ideal. Cook the quail like that for 4-5 minutes, then turn them once and cook for another 4-5 (For chicken drumsticks, double the times). Take them out and put them on kitchen paper to soak up some of the oil.

    By now, your wedges should be done too, so get them out of the oven. Serve while everything’s still piping hot, and don’t forget the coleslaw!

(Used cooking oil can be re-used. Let it cool completely, then pour it into an empty bottle, through a coffee filter. It’ll be a little darker, but it’s still good to go.)

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