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Quail and 40 Cloves of Garlic

Quail and 40 Cloves of Garlic

Roasted quail in a creamy garlic sauce on a white plate

This traditional French preparation makes quail the star of a creamy garlic sauce

A French fricassee is a stew in which meat is braised in white sauce. Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic is traditional. Yes, you read that right: literally 40 cloves of garlic. This equates to about four whole heads of garlic. That’s a lot of garlic in one dish, and as you can imagine, could taste quite pungent if the allium isn’t adequately cooked to mellow out its sharp, spicy flavor. Herein lies the small problem with this quail-based dish: these small birds don’t take long to cook. 

James Beard’s famous recipe calls for steaming 16 chicken legs for 1 hour and 30 minutes with aromatics in a 6-quart casserole. Here, we are presented with another problem: the likelihood that a quail hunter would have 16 birds to cook at one time is low. The chicken doesn’t overcook in this dish because, one, it’s chicken, and two, it’s tightly stuffed in a dish, keeping everything moist. A bag limit of six Nebraska quail would swim in the pan and possibly dry out before the garlic could give up its edge. To get around this, I roasted the garlic beforehand. Doing so yielded a sweet, delicate white sauce and plenty of it to eat over mashed potatoes, rice, or crusty bread. 

This was one of those times that made me wonder why I don’t cook with roasted garlic more often. It’s tasty in just about everything. If you roast extra heads, smash the cloves with butter, spread it on bread, and top with a little finishing salt. Heaven. 

Outside of roasting the garlic, which could be done ahead and refrigerated, this is a fairly quick dish to prepare. I used closer to 30 cloves of garlic because I thought 40 would be overkill with just six birds, but of course you could double the recipe as needed. 

I listed whole quail and photographed them so for presentation, but this recipe would also work well with quail breasts, legs, thighs, or all three. Boned-out quail will take less time to cook, and they would be easier to eat than whole quail with a fork and knife. You could also try this recipe with boneless pheasant breasts

Roasted quail in a creamy garlic sauce on a white plate

Quail and “40” Cloves of Garlic

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley
A traditional French preparation of roasted quail in a creamy garlic sauce
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Servings 4
Calories 485 kcal


  • 6 quail whole, or breasts and legs
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 heads garlic
  • Olive oil
  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp water


  • Preheat your oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Slice off the tops of the heads of garlic to expose the cloves. Wrap them individually, cut side up, in pieces of foil with a splash of olive oil. Place wrapped garlic on a cookie sheet and roast on the middle oven rack for 45 minutes. The garlic cloves should be soft and slightly browned; do not allow them to burn because they will become bitter. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the garlic pulp; I use a small paring knife to help dig out the soft cloves. Set aside.
  • Lower oven heat to 350°. Season quail with salt, including inside the body cavity. In an oven-proof pan or skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and brown the quail on all sides. Transfer the quail onto a plate and set aside.
  • Take the pan off the heat and add the roasted garlic and dry sherry. Return the pan over medium heat and allow the sherry to completely evaporate, stirring often. Next, add chicken stock, heavy cream, a bay leaf, and thyme, and bring to a simmer. Do not boil.
  • In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water into a smooth slurry, and stir into the sauce. Simmer until thickened, stirring frequently. Season sauce to taste, and slightly smash the garlic pieces with the back of a spoon. Return browned quail to the pan, breast side up, along with any juices on the plate. Cover the pan with foil, transfer to a 350° oven, and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until quail is cooked through.
  • Thin out the garlic sauce with more chicken stock, if needed. Discard thyme stem and bay leaf. Serve quail and garlic sauce with rice, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, or crusty bread.


Calories: 485kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 35gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 158mgSodium: 118mgPotassium: 539mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 850IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 85mgIron: 7mg
Keyword Quail
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View Comment (1)
  • 5 stars
    Stubble quail season is in full swing here in Victoria, Australia. We have a daily bag limit of 20 birds, although it is rare to get that many. I currently have 25 quail in the freezer, the result of 5 days shooting over my 15 month old Hungarian wirehaired vizsla, Sisi. I’ll let you know how it tastes after the season ends on the 30th June. Hopefully I have a few more as I do have a big family.

5 from 1 vote

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