Monday, January 31, 2005

Quail Mail

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.

1 comment:

MJW said...

Brilliant! As one of my mentors used to say, the mark of the master is that when things go completely awry, the masterful can fix it before the average observer even notices there is a problem. A corollary: I may be wrong but I'm never in doubt.