When we were in Scottsdale in September, we visited the Heard Museum which prides itself on an accurate display of arts and cultures of Native peoples, especially those from the Southwest US. The collections include Southwest American Indian cultural art, fine art, and contemporary pieces in addition to beautiful jewelry, textiles, baskets, ceramics, and beadwork. After exploring the museum, I somehow landed in front of the book shelf in the gift shop, and that's where I found the James Beard Foundation award-winning book Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations by Lois Ellen Frank. This informative book tells of food traditions that continue today, the seasonality of the food, and the sustainable ways in which food has always been hunted and gathered by Native peoples. The recipes range from very traditional ones such as piki bread, which a young woman must master before being considered a suitable bride, to the more modern pumpkin corn soup with ginger-lime cream and blue corn gnocchi with guajillo chile sauce. The 100 plus dishes in the book have all been adapted to current tastes and modern kitchen equipment. There's an entire chapter devoted to chiles which I'll be turning to frequently. It includes fresh green chile soup with tumbleweed greens, chile turnovers, and red and green chile sauces. With chiles in mind, I had to try the marinated grilled quail which was served with a dried chile and honey glaze.
I really like quail and usually order it when it's featured on a restaurant menu, but for whatever reason, I had never before cooked quail at home. We always have fresh, local quail ready and waiting at Whole Foods, and I finally bought some. The quail were washed, patted dry, and their tiny, little wings were removed. The wings went into the freezer for stock some other day. Then, the quail were marinated in a mixture of chopped sage, parsley, rosemary, chipotle chile powder, chopped fresh serrano chile, olive oil, minced garlic, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. They sat in the marinade in the refrigerator for several hours. Then, the glaze was made from rehydrated, dried New Mexico chiles, and I added a dried cascabel just because I had it. The softened chiles were pureed in the blender with some of their soaking water and honey, and then the puree was passed through a sieve. The quail were cooked on the grill for about five minutes per side, and then I spooned some of the glaze over them and let them grill for another minute per side. I sauteed CSA zucchini, corn, and green beans for a side dish, and the quail were served split in half with more glaze drizzled over top.
If you haven't had quail, it's mild for a game bird, and you definitely don't want to overcook it. Five minutes per side of grilling was just right for these birds, but any smaller and the time should be reduced. The searing heat of the grill crisped the skin, and the marinade left the meat flavorful and tender. I especially liked the glaze with its earthy chile heat tempered by the honey. Next from the book, I want to try the spicy pinto bean ravioli or maybe Indian tacos with frybread.