If you don’t have the time or inclination to hunt outdoors, track down quail in either better grocery stores or your local farmers’ markets. Aside from being lip-smackin’ delicious, quail pack far more nutrition and fewer calories than does chicken. According to nutritional source SkipThePie.org, 3.5 ounces of skinless chicken breast has 263 calories (142 being fat calories), 16 grams fat, 15 grams protein, and 451 mg sodium. The same portion of quail has 134 calories (only 41 being fat calories), 5 grams fat, 22 grams protein, and 51 mg sodium.
Since most of the prep is done the evening before, all you will need do in the morning is fry the quail and cook the waffles. So what do you say we kick things off with a prickly pear tequila sunrise mimosa?
1 cup local honey
1 Ancho chile pepper
4 quail, halved
1 ½ cups local honey
¼ cup raspberry, white wine, or Champagne vinegar
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh mint leaves
½ tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground white pepper
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup buttermilk
Peanut oil, for frying
Butter, for serving
Confectioner’s sugar, for garnish
Fresh mint, for garnish
Prepare the Ancho honey: Slit the Ancho chili, and discard the stem, seeds, and ribs. Flatten the chile in a dry cast-iron skillet over high heat, pressing on it with a wooden spoon, until it becomes fragrant and pliable (just a few minutes). Tear the chile into pieces into a small saucepan, add 1 cup of the honey along with ¼ cup water, and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Strain the honey into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and discard the chile pieces.
Just before serving, set the jar in a saucepan and fill the pan with about 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer over low heat, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
Prepare the quail: To halve the quail, snip out the backbone with kitchen shears. With the quail breast-side down, split into halves through the center of the breastbone. Place the quail pieces in a 9” x 13” glass baking dish. Blend the remaining ½ cup of the honey with the vinegar, thyme, lemon zest, and mint and pour it over the quail. Turn to coat the pieces evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The following morning, drain the quail on a wire rack. Beat the egg into the buttermilk in a bowl, and add the quail to the mixture. Heat the peanut oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet (or use an electric fryer) to 370 F°. Combine the flours in a bowl, then dredge each quail piece lightly in the mixture. Add pieces to the hot oil, avoiding overcrowding, and turn once or twice until golden brown. Drain finished quail on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet; keep warm in a 200° F oven until ready to serve.
Classic Belgian Waffles
2 ¼ cups milk
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, plus a bit more for the waffle iron
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. active dry yeast
2 ¾ cups organic all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
½ tsp. Mexican vanilla
In a small pot over medium heat, combine milk and butter until melted and hot but not simmering. Stir in sugar, remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm.
In a glass measuring cup, combine ½ cup warm water and yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the milk mixture, then the yeast mixture, using either a wire whisk or a dough whisk. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until doubled in volume, 2 to 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
Heat waffle iron. Whisk eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl, then lightly whisk the mixture into the waffle batter. Using a pastry brush or paper towel, lightly coat the waffle iron with melted butter. Cook waffles according to your waffle iron’s instructions until golden and crisp. Serve waffles immediately as they are ready, or keep them warm in a 200° F oven until ready to serve.
To plate: Place one or two waffles on a plate, dot with butter, and top with 2 quail halves. Drizzle with Ancho honey and lightly dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Recipes, styling, and photos by Susan L. Ebert, sarapegoods courtesy Sarape Girl, sarapegirlstore.com