Buttermilk Fried Quail
with Gigi’s Bacon Gravy
This recipe is inspired by my mother’s Appalachian roots, where she grew up eating fried chicken and gravy. I like to use quail for this recipe because they are fun, petite tasters that are perfect as an appetizer.
Makes 24 pieces / Prep Time: / Total Time:
Brine the quail:
- Combine ½ cup of the buttermilk and the salt in a bowl and mix well. Add the quail and turn to coat.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
Make the season flour:
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to blend.
Bread the quail:
- One hour before frying, place 2 ½ cups of the season flour in a shallow bowl. Pour the remaining ½ cup buttermilk into a second shallow bowl. Have ready a large rimmed sheet pan.
- Remove 1 quail from the brine, drop it into the bowl of flour, and turn to coat. Transfer the quail to the bowl of buttermilk, turn to coat, and then return the quail to the flour and again turn to coat. Remove from the flour, shaking off any excess and transfer to the sheet pan.
- Repeat with the remaining quail. Refrigerate the breaded quail, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Prepare the gravy:
- Warm the bacon fat in a wide pan with sloped sides over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until light golden, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Slowly whisk ½ cup of the milk into the flour mixture and return the pan to medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to thicken, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups milk, ½ cup at a time, whisking constantly and waiting until the mixture begins to thicken before the next addition.
- Let the gravy come to a boil, then remove from the heat and whisk in the salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Fry the quail:
- Set a rack on a sheet pan and place near the stove.
- Pour the oil to a depth of 3 to 4 inches into a deep, heavy saucepan and heat to 350°F. The pan should be no more than half full.
- When the oil is hot, submerge 4 quail in the hot and fry until golden brown, about 6 minutes.
- Using tongs or a wire skimmer, transfer the quail to the rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining quail.
Arrange the quail on a serving platter and pour Gigi’s gravy on top. Serve immediately.
- To carve the quail, cut each quail lengthwise down the center, separating it into equal halves. Cut each half in half to separate the breast from the thigh. (Trimming the wing bone and removing the thigh-leg bone is an optional step, though it does make the quail easier to eat when serving as an hors d’oeuvre.)
- When preparing the gravy, be sure the milk is at room temperature. You can achieve this by microwaving the milk for 20 to 30 seconds. If the milk is too cold or too hot, it will cause lumps in the gravy. Although lumps are not disastrous (I have had lumpy gravy many times in my life), the gravy is better when it’s smooth and creamy.
- You can follow the same recipe technique for chicken pieces. Lower the oil temperature to 315°F and cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness.