Note: This recipe works best with quail, chukar, pheasant and blue grouse. Ruffed grouse will work, but their meat is much lighter and easier to overcook.
Below you’ll find some of my buddy Ronny Boehme’s favorite game bird recipes. These are great because they are quick and failsafe and very accesible for people who don’t have adventurous taste buds. The photos that accompany these recipes are from a recent quail hunt on a preserve in the Shenandoah Valley near Ronny’s Virginia home, which is known as Beer Mountain. He uses the home for work, and it is inhabited by his employees. All these folks are either friends of mine, past coworkers of mine, or hunting buddies of mine. Before getting to Ronny’s recipes, I should point out that Ronny and I have a fundamental disagreement on preserve hunting. Ronny believes that preserves, where you kill pen-raised birds, help keep your dogs in shape during the off-season, and that they are a good way to get newbies started into hunting. I think that preserves are a good way to spoil dogs (and hunters) because they grow up thinking that birds are dumb and predictable and they don’t hone the necessary skills and temperament to deal with real-world hunting situations and wary birds. (It makes about as much sense to me as someone going to a brothel in order to learn how to meet women.) But I caution readers to take my opinion lightly. After all, Ronny owns dogs and I don’t. –Steven Rinella
- •Quail breasts
- •Cream cheese
1) Skin birds, then remove legs at hip joints and fillet away breast meat. (The birds in these images are quail, which are small enough that one breast fillet will make one popper. With larger birds, such as grouse, you can cut each breast fillet into several pieces.) Soak the meat in lightly-salted water for about thirty minutes.
2) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then split jalapeño peppers in half, figuring one pepper for every two pieces of meat. Remove seeds and core from the inside of each pepper. Using a small spoon, press cream cheese into cavity of each pepper, like filling a canoe. Lay a strip of meat over the cheese and fasten the meat to each side of the pepper with a toothpick or small skewer.
3) Lay poppers on a cookie sheet or baking dish, meat side up, and place into preheated oven. Cooking time varies according to size of meat and peppers, but about twenty minutes usually does the trick. The key is to pull them out before the bird is over cooked. Usually, they are done around the time when the toothpicks start to blacken on the ends and the bottoms of the peppers start to brown. Serve with plenty of cold beer.
Quail in a Pail
- •Quail Legs from previous recipe
After soaking the legs in salt water for thirty minutes, cover them with your favorite BBQ sauce or hot sauce for another thirty minutes. Heat about a quarter cup of oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Remove legs from sauce one at a time, shaking off excess sauce. Place them in the hot oil, careful not to crowd them. (You don’t want them touching while they cook.) These do not take long to cook, and are prone to burning, so shake the pan often to keep the legs moving. It’ll only take about five minutes to cook quail legs, a tad longer for larger birds. Do not overcook! Without a doubt, quail legs are the most delicious, albeit tiny, of any game bird that is available in this country.