Growing up my mom would always make roasted quail for dinner parties. They always freaked me out. With their pink and blue bodies, sometimes with feathers still left intact. I literally thought my parents were feeding us our backyard robins.
But recently, I started branching out in my animal consumption, not to mention animal body parts (offal… yum). Paleo-ism does interesting things to people.
Anyhow, I gave the quail another chance… and guess what? It wasn’t a big deal. Small and scrawny and surprisingly backyard robin-y tasting. But being very determined to advance myself into paleohood, I decided this gamey bird needed to be doused in something spicy. Something tangy. Something amazing (no humility – so sorry, not sorry). And this is what happened:
Quail with Ancho Chili and Roasted Garlic Recado
- 10 quails
- 1 whole head of garlic, cut horizontally in half
- 1 medium onion, cut into eighths
- 2 dry ancho chilies, seeded and deveined
- 1 cup boiling water
- 4 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon annatto seeds
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon allspice berries
- ¾ cup orange juice
- Zest of 1 lime
- Juice of 3 limes
Preheat the oven to 400°F on the convection bake setting.
Place garlic and onion on a large square of foil and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil. Fold the foil in to make a loose parcel and place in the oven to roast for 40 minutes or until the cloves are soft and caramelized.
Soak your chilies in hot water for 10 minutes.
In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (not suggested) grind your annatto seeds, cumin seeds and allspice berries until they are finely ground.
Once the roasted garlic are cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins. Also drain your reconstituted chilies with a sieve and discard the liquid.
In a blender or small food processor add all the seasonings, lime zest, lime and orange juice, chilies and roasted alliums and blend until combined.
Butterfly the birdies with a knife or kitchen shears down the back spine and flatten by pressing down on the breasts.
In a large mixing bowl marinate the quails with the ancho recado. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and no longer than 6 or it gets a funky texture.
Set the oven to 400°F on the bake setting. Before cooking, make sure the quails have come to room temperature.
In an oven-safe skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium-low heat. When the oil is shimmering add the birds to the skillet, breast side down. Cook the quails for 5 minutes, flip over and cook for an additional 5 minutes on the other side. Baste more sauce from the marinade bowl onto both sides of the quail and place the skillet in the oven for 10 minutes (or longer if your birds are bigger). In the summer, you can grill the birds on medium heat for 10 minutes per side.
Plate and serve with lime and a cool salad to cut the heat. Yum.