Why It Works
- Saving bones from the quail allows you to make a quick stock, if desired (but this can also be skipped).
- Spatchcocking or deboning the quail makes them easier to cook, and speeds up their cooking time.
- Plums add fiber and pectin to the sauce, thickening it single-handedly.
Plums play a leading roll in the pan sauce for these roasted quail. It's a dish that looks labor intensive, but it couldn't be simpler: Simply sear the quail, then cook the plums with shallot and thyme. Honey and butter finish the sauce, balancing out the fruit's tart notes.
- 4 whole quail, deboned or spatchcocked
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
- One medium shallot, minced (1 1/2-ounces, 40g; about 1/4 cup minced)
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 small Italian plums (about 8 ounces), pitted and diced
- 1 cup (235ml) water or quail stock or homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth (see note)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) honey, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
- Minced flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)
Season quail all over with salt. In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add quail. If quail are spatchcocked, cook them skin side down until well browned, about 5 minutes, then flip and cook other side until desired doneness is reached (quail can be served from medium-rare to well done, as desired; they are too small to accurately use a thermometer, so feel free to cut into the meat to check doneness). If using deboned quail, cook on both sides, turning frequently, until browned on both sides and desired doneness is reach, about 4 minutes per side for medium.
Transfer quail to a plate or wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet to rest.
Add shallot and thyme to skillet and cook, stirring, until shallot is softened, about 3 minutes. Add plums and cook, stirring, until starting to look pulpy, about 4 minutes.
Add water or stock to pan, bring to a simmer, then cook until liquid has reduced and plums have broken down to form a thick sauce. Add any juices that have collected below quail. Season with salt.
Add honey to sauce, stirring to combine; taste, then add more honey as desired to balance the tartness of the plums (this will depend on the plums you have). Stir in butter until melted. Remove from heat. Discard thyme sprigs.
Spoon sauce onto serving plates, arrange quail on top, and serve. You can garnish with minced parsley, if desired.
12-inch cast iron skillet
Water will work just fine for this recipe, but you'll get additional depth of flavor if you use stock. If you deboned your quail yourself, you will have leftover bones which you can use to make a quick stock, simply by combining the bones with diced aromatics (any combination of carrot, shallot or onion, garlic, celery, and herbs like parsley or thyme) in a saucepan and adding just enough water to cover, then simmering it all together for 30 minutes or so. Chicken stock, homemade or store-bought works well too.