Although traditionally a shellfish recipe, this traditional Cajun dish can easily be served with upland bird meat
Yes, étouffée is traditionally made with shellfish (often crawfish), but for us bird hunters wanting to create a special Cajun dish for Mardi Gras, there’s nothing wrong with employing quail or other upland meat.
As I understand it, traditional étouffée—the authentic Cajun version—does not contain tomatoes. Same goes for gumbo. If either contains tomatoes, it’s considered a creole variation. Serious Cajuns get insulted if you serve tomatoes in étouffée, and we don’t want that, so we kept this recipe simple but mostly authentic—at least, in regard to no tomatoes.
The Cajun “Holy Trinity” of bell peppers, onions, and celery is applied here. For the Cajun seasoning, I went with Bearded Butchers Blend Cajun Seasoning. You are welcome to use whatever Cajun seasoning blend you like. I also listed a couple additional, optional spices below, including red pepper chili flakes, which I did not use but can add an extra kick, if you wish.
I kept the quail whole for the photo, but shredded when serving, so feel welcome to serve however you think is best for your guests.
Quail ÉtoufféeJack Hennessy
- 1 Dutch oven or
- 1 large pot
- 1 cast iron skillet
- 4 whole quail spatchcocked
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 2 celery ribs diced
- 1/2 yellow onion diced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups clam juice
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 1/2 cups long grain rice
- 2 cups cold water
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Sunflower (or similar high-heat) oil
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sunflower (or similar) oil
- 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
Optional spices and ingredients
- 1 tsp freshly minced thyme
- 1 tbsp red pepper chili flakes
- Scallions for garnish
- Begin to prepare the quail. Fully thaw and spatchcock (removing spine and flattening) with kitchen shears. Pat dry and lightly salt and pepper and place in fridge until 1 hour prior to cooking. Remove to bring closer to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- While quail is coming to room temperature, dice vegetables and heat a large pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add a thin layer of sunflower oil along with diced vegetables. Lightly salt and pepper and sear until slightly soft.
- When vegetables are cooked, add clam juice and chicken stock, as well as paprika (and optional spices, if you like) to the pot or Dutch oven with vegetables. Turn heat to medium low.
- Make the roux by adding flour and sunflower oil to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently so not to burn. The goal is a light-brown roux—a shade darker than dry sand. When this color is reached, turn off heat and add Cajun seasoning. Stir in seasoning.
- Add hot roux to pot with liquids and vegetables. Stand back as it will react. Stir in roux to thicken liquids, then turn heat to low.
- While vegetable mixture simmers, heat a large cast-iron skillet to 500 degrees and add a thin layer of sunflower oil. Cook quail breast-side down until seared, roughly 1-2 minutes. Flip and add to oven to cook for 10 minutes. Remove quail and allow to rest for 5 minutes before shredding.
- While the quail are in the oven, cook your rice. Combine the rice and cold water to medium saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat to low once a boil starts. Rice is done once all the water is absorbed, roughly 10-15 minutes.
- To serve, add ample helping of rice to bowl and smother with stew from pot. Add hand-shredded quail and garnish with sliced scallions
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.