What Are Quails?
Initially indigenous to the Middle East, quails are now widespread across Europe. These small birds typically serve one person as a starter dish; for a main course, you would need two. The bird offers a good ratio of lean, succulent flesh to bone, accompanied by a subtle flavour.
Availability of Quails
Accessible all year round.
Selecting the Best Quail
When choosing a quail, choose plump birds with unmarked, fresh-looking creamy-yellow skin with a slight pink hue. Avoid any birds that appear dry or have an off-putting odour. If purchasing farmed quail, it is advisable to choose organic or free-range options that have been traditionally reared. Quails are available either boned or unboned; the boned variety offers more space for stuffing and results in slightly less messy consumption.
How to Prepare Quail
Remove the quail from the refrigerator approximately one hour before cooking. Use a kitchen towel to wipe down the bird's exterior and interior. Due to its lean and somewhat dry meat, you may choose to marinate the quail at this stage. Alternatively, season the interior with salt and pepper, and if desired, add some flavour-enhancing stuffings such as plum or prune. Bind the legs together with the kitchen string. To avoid drying out, brush the bird with melted butter or oil, or wrap the breast with pancetta, Parma ham, or vine leaves.
Alternatively, the bird can be spatchcocked before cooking, which is particularly useful for grilling or barbecuing as it speeds up the cooking time. To spatchcock, remove ties, cut out the backbone using kitchen scissors and flatten the bird by pressing down along its length. Insert two skewers crosswise through the bird to keep it flat during cooking.
How to Store Quail
Store the quail on a tray in the fridge, covered with foil or greaseproof paper. Ensure it is placed on the bottom shelf to prevent juices from contaminating other food items. This is especially crucial when storing the quail alongside cooked meats or foods that will be consumed raw. Consume within two to three days.
How to Cook Quail
Roasting (20 minutes). Grilling (15-20 minutes, turning frequently).