KFQ, Kentucky Fried Quail, Southern Food with Whiff of Asia from 'Smoke and Pickles'

Brooklyn raised chef Edward Lee took a trip to Louisville in 2001 for Kentucky Derby, discovered a local restaurant called 610 Magnolia and made it his new home...so the story goes...

Whether you like horse racing, Brooklyn, or not you will find plenty to cook in Edward Lee's cookbook Smoke and Pickles, Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen (Artisan Books, Spring 2013).

I had a hard time deciding which 3 recipes I was going to share.

Let's start with KFQ.

Kentucky Fried Quail

The technique of double-cooking poultry gives it that extra crispiness. Just as in the Adobo Fried Chicken and Waffles (page 82), here you poach the bird first before frying it. This allows some of the fat to render out, and it also shrinks the skin. Then your frying time will be less, so the meat won’t be overcooked. It’s a nifty trick—try it. Quail is often treated as a luxury item, adorably trussed and served on pretty porcelain plates. I love taking quail out of that context and serving it on newspaper with a dipping sauce and a mound of seasoned salt, letting people eat with their hands.

The Fragrant Salt used here is popular in Chinese cuisine; it can be used to flavor anything from scallops to popcorn. The quail is extra tasty paired with Pickled Garlic in Molasses Soy Sauce (page 181).

Feeds 4 as an appetizer

¼ cup sea salt
4 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon five-spice powder

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of 1 lime

4 semi-boneless quail (see note)
2 to 3 cups peanut oil for deep-frying

87_Kentucky Fried Quail

1. To make the fragrant salt: Combine all the ingredients in a spice grinder or a blender and grind until fine. Transfer to a small bowl.

2. To make the dipping sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Set aside at room temperature.

3. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a wide pot and add 1 tablespoon of the fragrant salt. Add the quail to the water and boil for 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and pat thoroughly dry; transfer to a plate.

4. In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil (enough to barely cover the quail) to 390°F over medium-high heat. Cook the quail one at a time, and keep a lid handy; if the oil splatters too much, simply cover the pot with the lid. Add 1 quail to the pot and fry for 1 minute, then flip the bird and fry for another 30 seconds. It should crisp up very fast and turn a dark, shiny amber. Drain on paper towels, pat dry with more paper towels, and immediately sprinkle some of the fragrant salt over the quail. Repeat this process with the rest of the quail.

5. Serve the quail with the dipping sauce and the remaining fragrant salt on the side.

NOTE: Semi-boneless quail have been partially boned, leaving the wing and leg bones intact. If you are using wild-caught quail, simply remove the back bones and leave the breast meat on the breastbone.

( Excerpted from Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Grant Cornett.)

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