Roast Quail Jen Paterson’s Way

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the Two Fat Ladies. This was when I was still the pickiest eater in the known universe, so I might as well have been watching Fear Factor. These ladies would slather a pile of butter over an artichoke, that horrid bitter thistle (Hey, I love artichokes now, but as a kid? They were weird-looking and therefore definitely not edible.) and then they would eat it. They made muttachar, which horrified me, and not only because it included tomatoes. They ate chocolate cake without frosting, which my five-year-old mind thought was rather missing the point.

Through every episode, no matter what they were making, they were deadly serious with their admonitions against reducing calories. “The butter is a must.” “There is no substitute for lard or beef drippings–if you object, eat something else.” And always, at the end when they tried their creations, their faces conveyed absolute happiness.

So when I grew up and started eating real food, I picked up the Two Fat Ladies’ cookbooks all at once, without even looking through them. I had so many wonderful memories of their show, despite never having eaten anything they’d featured, that I couldn’t resist. Then I let the books sit on the counter for two years because, well, I didn’t want to become a fat lady.

I don’t care if I do anymore.  Not that this particular dish is unhealthy in the least. Quail are such little birds, even if you cooked them in their weight in butter they’d still be little more than snacks. This version, with honey and lemon, is simply delightful. I adapted the recipe from this book only slightly, to add more garlic. I changed the method to make it a one-dish affair, because my dishwasher is broken and I don’t want to deal with it. It was perfect.

Ingredients (serves 2 with a generous helping of steamed vegetables)

2 quail

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T honey

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt to taste


Heat the oven to 450°F

I get my quail frozen, in packs that encourage the ice to cement them together like tiny poultry bricks. If I  don’t thaw them completely before separating the birds, they will end up missing limbs. Fair warning.

Incidentally, 6 quail. $7.50. Woot!

I always remove the wingtips, not because I worry that I might accidentally try to eat them, but because they have a tendancy to stick straight up in the oven and then they burn. I dislike the smell of burning. Here is a wingtip:

Here is no wingtip:

There, that’s much better.

Melt the butter in a cast iron pan (or another heavy, oven safe pan), sauté the garlic until it begins to brown. Add the lemon juice and honey and stir briefly, then toss in the quail.

Brown the quail on all sides, then toss the whole pan in the oven for 10 minutes.

I decided to toss about 1/2 a cup of white wine into the pan after removing the quail and reducing it with the honey-lemon remnants for a quick sauce.

Serve with loads of  steamed vegetables, preferably with lemon to complement the lemon on the quail, and bread to mop up your sauce. Delicious!


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  1. #1 by lexy3587 on May 11, 2011 - 7:01 AM

    This looks tasty. There are mysterious purple-skinned tiny chicken things (some kind of sport bird) at my grocery store, and I’ve been dying to try them out… Now i have a recipe that will probably work for them 🙂
    My younger sister LOVED the two fat ladies when she was younger… they were her favourite show right up until it was taken off the air, and we just bought the first season for her about a week ago. I’m going to have to track down their books for her next birthday present, i think!

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