Quail are found almost everywhere in the United States. They are a great gamebird to hunt, and I have many fond memories of pursuing them with my English setter and pointers. The thrill of busting a covey in the early morning can really get your motor running. I love the social calling and clucking they do within the covey and for years had a couple of flight pens full of them in the back yard. If you don’t have the opportunity to hunt them, they can be found in the freezer section of some grocery stores and Asian markets. The coffee rub adds a nice earthy flavor to this dish, and will open your eyes to using this coffee rub on a variety of animal proteins.

Ingredients

  • 12 Quail

Brine

  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar

Rub

  • ¼ cup finely ground coffee or espresso
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper

Preparation Method
This recipe really showcases whole, skin-on, quail. Spatchcock your quail by removing the backbone using a sharp knife or set of poultry shears. Place the quail, bone side down on a cutting board. Smack the bird with the heel of your hand to flatten the breast. You’ll feel the breastbone crack and will now have a nice even piece of meat to cook.

Mix together the water, salt, and brown sugar in a large zip-lock bag to form the brine. (I threw a couple of shots of bourbon in mine as well) When the salt and sugar have dissolved fully, add the quail. Seal up and refrigerate at least a couple of hours, or ideally overnight. When you are ready to cook them, remove them from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel.

To make the rub, combine the ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Stir until well blended well blended with a whisk or large fork.

Apply the rub liberally over the entire quail. When you have coated all of them, place in another zip-lock bag and return to the refrigerator for 2 hours or so.

Remove your quail from the refrigerator and allow to warm at room temperature for a half hour.

Get your grill going to medium high heat. I really like to use mesquite wood to cook quail. If you are using a gas grill, you can add some mesquite chips in a foil pouch with a couple of holes poked through to add some mesquite flavor.

Place the quail on the grill, bone side down. Sprinkle just a touch of kosher salt over them. Cover the grill and cook 5 minutes. Watch them carefully to make sure they do not burn! Turn them over and cook another 4-5 minutes or until they are golden brown and the meat reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees F.

Serve them over a bed of red beans and rice with a side of grilled Nopales and fresh avocado. The depth of flavor with a nice little chili kick on the finish, really highlights the delicate meat of the quail. The rub is fantastic and I would recommend making a double batch and trying it on a venison or beef steak. Sublime.

This dish pairs excellently with a dry Rose’ or a dry Riesling. If you prefer beer, I would recommend a smoky porter or a hoppy IPA to quaff with this dish.

Cheers!