When Tom told me he had some quail for me to cook he said it like this:
"Hey, Bill, I've got some quail for you. You do know how to cook quail, don't you?"
"Uh, yeah, sure thing."
I'm sure I exuded confidence. My reputation as a camp cook was being tested in real-time because we were out there in the woods, miles from civilization and more importantly for me, miles from an Internet connection where I could Google "quail recipes." Time to transform into Iron Chef!
I ordered a fire to be built mostly to stall for time. More fire. More fire! More COWBELL! Meanwhile I rummaged through my provisions and took stock: bacon, mushrooms, tortillas, jalapenos, onion, some kind of sausage, tomatoes, cilantro and an assortment of spices. Hmmmm, eeess pozzible eef only I had Moose and Squirrel.
The basic blueprint went like this. I minced the mushrooms and some onion and sauted them. Then I minced some tortillas and mixed it in with the mushroom-onion to make a sort of stuffing which I seasoned. I did something similar with the sausage which I stuffed into split jalapenos.
The quail had been dressed and looked like itty bitty chickens, which I guess they are and that should lead into a whole raft of "tastes like chicken" jokes which you will thank me profusely for avoiding. Thank YOU. I stuffed each quail with one of the stuffings and wrapped each one in a strip of bacon. Then I arranged the quails in a Dutch oven, tossed in a few chopped onions and carrots for fun, added a little water and and butter and stuck it on the fire, rather covered it with coals.
Then I got distracted.
So, I'm out there joking around and having a grand time while my quails are being incinerated in a firey Dutch oven not under my watchful eye. Finally, I glance over to the fire and I see smoke coming out of the Dutch oven. Not steam. Smoke.
Not a good sign.
Casually, I sauntered over to the fire and removed the Dutch oven as if I were in complete control (as opposed to complete panic which is closer to what I was really feeling) , wrangled the pot to my camp kitchen and lifted the lid. The quail were in obvious distress and my first thought was to lower the temperature so I poured in some water which hissed and spit, boiled immediately and created a huge cloud of steam. It was very impressive.
When the steam subsided and the pot cooled a bit I stirred the bottom and discovered that the quail were perfectly cooked and the water had turned the incinerated onions and carrots into a nice gravy. Thinking fast I garnished the dish with some chopped cilantro.
It was the stuff of legend. Nothing like a bunch of starving guys in the woods to appreciate a near disaster. After all the chomping and gnashing, replete with yum-yum noises, subsided someone said "Man, that was great quail. You gotta give me your recipe."
Uh, yeah, I'll mail it to you.