Celebrate summer with the sweet and savory flavors of this sauce served over wild quail fresh off the grill
It hit me like a ton of bricks the moment I checked our community’s pool schedule: The pool was closing and school was starting in a week. Summer was over in Mulvane, Kansas. Of course every parent looks forward to the start of school, and every hunter looks forward to the start of fall, but—for whatever reason—this summer just went by too quickly for my liking. We bought a 10-visit pool pass and went just once as a family—we even missed out on the doggy swim! So to both mourn and commemorate this melancholy occasion, I had to put together something “summery” on the plate.
Strawberries, to me, are synonymous with summer. But to add a bit of savory and a bit of heat, I opted for a little chipotle in adobo sauce (pureed) to help balance out the flavor profile here. I didn’t want this sauce to be too sweet and, depending on which strawberries you use, there is the possibility the sauce may taste a bit tart. Brown sugar helps here, but more importantly, the proper amount of kosher salt will help balance the sweetness while also neutralizing that tart, bitter flavor tone. So add kosher salt gradually to the sauce after it has simmered on low for a while.
“Salt to taste” is an odd phrase, as you shouldn’t actually taste salt or “saltiness,” but rather you should “taste” the full flavor potential of a dish.
Grilled Quail with Chipotle Strawberry SauceJack Hennessy
- 4 whole quail spatchcocked
- 1 cup chardonnay
- ½ tsp thyme fresh
- 1½ tbsp garlic freshly minced
- 1½ tbsp shallots freshly minced
- 1 tbsp salted butter
- 1 tsp chipotle in adobo sauce pureed
- 8 oz fresh strawberries pureed
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper freshly cracked
- Suggested side Steamed baby spinach topped with goat cheese
- Suggested garnish Fresh basil, cut chiffonade
- To make sauce, in a medium saucepan, add 1 tablespoon salted butter along with 1½ tablespoons freshly minced shallots. Lightly salt and pepper.
- Heat on medium low until shallots are soft, then add freshly minced garlic and fresh thyme. Cook for a couple minutes, then add 1 cup chardonnay.
- Puree chipotles in adobe sauce in food processor and set aside puree. Rinse out food processor and dry.
- Add strawberries (without stems) to food processor along with 1 teaspoon chipotle puree. Blend thoroughly. When 1 cup of wine has reduced to half in saucepan, add it to food processor and blend with chipotle-strawberry mix.
- Once thoroughly blended, add food processor contents back to medium saucepan and heat on low for a low simmer. Add 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
- Grill spatchcocked quail until fully cooked (breasts reaching an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, thighs closer to 180-190 F)
- Lightly steam baby spinach by adding to a skillet heated on medium. Throw in a few droplets of water to steam
- Sauce should simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes. Salt to taste. If bland, add a small pinch more of kosher salt. Taste and repeat salt addition until flavors are balanced. You can add more brown sugar, but I personally prefer this to be a balance of savory and sweet. Too much brown sugar will tilt sauce more toward sweet.
- To serve, add sauce to plate followed by lightly steamed spinach topped with goat cheese. Add grilled quail and garnish with freshly cut (chiffonade) basil.
Jack Hennessy grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago and didn't start hunting until he attended graduate school in Spokane, Washington, at the age of 26. Hennessy began work in professional kitchens in high school but didn't start writing wild game recipes until he joined the Spokesman-Review in 2014. Since then, his recipes have appeared with Petersen's Hunting, Backcountry Journal, Gun Dog Magazine, among many others. He now lives with his wife, daughter, and Wirehaired Vizsla, Dudley, in Wichita, Kansas.