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Grilled Quail with Banana Barbecue Mop

Edward Lee

Lesson time 27 min

Learn how to make quail with perfect cross-hatched char marks, simmer homemade barbecue sauce with surprising ingredients, and prepare homemade quick pickles. Edward’s grilling techniques can be applied to other proteins.

Students give this lesson an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

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– When I think about barbecue sauce, it occurred to me that we have this incredible mix of sweet, salty, bitter, acid, and spice, and they complement grilled or smoked meats. And if you wanna cook something really out of the ordinary, but so amazing, go out and get some quail. What to do with all these leftover watermelon rinds? Please don’t throw them away. There’s a beautiful tradition of pickled watermelon rind in the South. And it’s amazing how much flavor these watermelon rinds will have after they’re pickled. So you’ve got your watermelon rind. You’re gonna peel off that outer layer ’cause you don’t want… That outer green layer is a little bit tough, so you don’t want that. So we’re gonna take that off. Typically when you see pickled watermelon rind in the South, there’ll be in big chunks, and they kind of boil it in a vinegar brine and then let it sit for a while, which is nice. But I really love that fresh, almost radishy flavor of this watermelon rinds. So I’m gonna try and keep it as raw as possible. But what I’m gonna do now is I’m gonna shave it into really thin ribbons. And this way, I still preserve the fresh rawness of that watermelon rind. This works basically for any unripe fruit. All right, I’ve got all this wonderful watermelon rind. And what I’m gonna do now is, dip in my little jar. Get it all the way up to the top. And now I’m gonna make a little bit of a brine that’s gonna fill this jar. So let’s go grab some spices now. Let’s see, a little knob of ginger, get star, fennel, pepper, coriander. Got coriander, fennel seed, a little bit of star anise, and of course, black peppercorn, ’cause that’s gonna play real nice with the watermelon. And I’ve got some ginger. Once again, I got my peeler, I’m just gonna use the peeler on my ginger. And for this, I just want a couple of thin slices. All right, let’s grab my pot. So basically I’m gonna make a brine here. Got a couple of cups of water, ginger, do one star anise, a little bit of fennel, a little bit of coriander seed, and a good amount of black pepper. Now for the brining part. So let’s start with the salt. You want a good amount of salt in there. So this is about two full tablespoons of salt. And then I do about the same amount of sugar, roughly two tablespoons. And you can always test the brine later. And if you want it to be a little sweeter, you can. I don’t like my brines to be overly sweet. Apple cider vinegar. Gonna be about a good half cup. All right, that’s it. This goes on the stove to boil. And the cool thing is, if you’re gonna bother doing a brine like this, I would go ahead and get a bunch of jars ready. You can pickle cucumbers, pickle ginger, you can pickle cherries, you can pickle honeydew, any kind of hardy vegetable or fruit’s gonna work fine. So have fun with it. Right, so your brine has come up to a boil. All the sugar and salt has melted in there. And you wanna let that boil for a little bit so that the spices kind of have time to mingle. Hmm. So this brine should be salty. It should be sweet, and obviously, it should be really vinegary. I’m actually gonna add a little bit more sugar to it. One more nice spoonful. Now, you really only wanna boil it for like five minutes. Ooh, perfect, all right. Now the important thing is, while this is still hot, you wanna add it to whatever you’re pickling. I’m gonna make sure I get some of that ginger in there. That’s star anise, some of those peppers. And then I’m just gonna carefully pour the brine. Get a layer of liquid up to the top, flip your lid on really tight. You wanna get out as much of the air as possible, a couple of air bubble’s fine. And that’s it. That’s your quick watermelon pickle rind. And this, you can literally refrigerate it, and I’ll be ready to eat in like two hours, or you can refrigerate it overnight. For this because we slice it so thin. I wouldn’t keep this past a week. When I think about barbecue sauce, it occurred to me that in its simplest form, it’s just a doctored up ketchup, right? Now, there are different barbecue sauce for different regions. Some are gonna be more vinegary-based. Some of them are gonna be more sweet. Some are more tomato-based. But what they all share in common is that they have all of these flavors, and they complement grilled or smoked meats. So there is this beautiful play between the spices and this flavor of burnt meat. And we have to get that right. So I started thinking about the base of a barbecue sauce. And I started thinking about this banana ketchup, which is a very Filipino thing to basically make a ketchup out of roasted bananas. So I thought, why don’t we take a barbecue sauce, but instead of using tomatoes as its base, we use bananas as its base. They’re sweet, but they’re umami-rich. They have a savory in this to them. And I thought, “Well, let’s try it out.” So lo-and-behold, it’s delicious. This recipe is gonna start with bananas. If you’ve never roasted a banana, it’s a really amazing thing to do. I’m gonna take the bananas off. Got a little sheet pan. And here’s how easy this is. I’m done, take five bananas, put them on a sheet tray, and I’m gonna put them in about a 250-degree oven for about 20, 30 minutes, however long it takes for it to roast. And you’ll see the skin will oxidize, and the entire banana will turn black, and the inside will get really soft, moist. And there’s a really bright acidity that’ll come out. Basics of barbecue sauce. We’re gonna start with an onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic. Get a little olive oil on the bottom of your pan. And we’re just going to start to sweat some of these onions and garlic. So this is only gonna take a few minutes. Just sweating off some garlic and onion. Really basic at this point. While I’m waiting for this to sweat, I’m gonna grab my spices. I got a lot to grab here. Ginger, mustard, paprika, cayenne, more mustard, turmeric, and allspice. Tamarind extract, tomato paste, ginger, brown sugar. All right, I think the bananas look ready. Look at that, it’s beautiful. That smell of roasted bananas, so amazing. Now, I got my pot. Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna take each banana, and we’re just gonna split it open. Look at all the juice coming out of there, it’s amazing. That goes right into our pot. So this is a great fun way to make your own barbecue sauce. Listen, if you’re in a pinch, you’re not gonna have time to do all this. You can really just take store-bought barbecue sauce and just add a few fresh ingredients and some spices to it and just doctor it up that way. And you’ll have a nice barbecue sauce yourself. I want you to notice, you see how easily these bananas now mash up. All right, now that we’ve got our bananas mashed up into our onion mix, I’m gonna start with some ginger. Let’s grab a couple of spoons. So we’re gonna grate about two teaspoons of fresh ginger right into here. It’s already starting to smell amazing. Next step, we’re gonna throw all of these spices in here. So allspice, it’s very strong, so you just want a little bit, about a quarter teaspoon is plenty. Same with turmeric, very small amount and it’s gonna go a long way. Same, about a quarter teaspoon. Next step, we have cayenne pepper. We’re gonna do a full teaspoon of cayenne pepper. And if you like spice, you can add a pinch more. In addition to cayenne, I’m gonna add smoked paprika about a half teaspoon. Now, these two may look alike, but they’re very, very different. Cayenne is gonna give you heat. Paprika’s going to give you a really rich fruity smokiness. So we want both of those in there. Next step, we have two kinds of mustards. I’m gonna do a spicy mustard, about a full tablespoon. And we’re gonna do about a full teaspoon of dry mustard as well. Both of these mustards have different purposes. This gives you more flavor and a little bit of a hint of vinegar. This one’s gonna give you this spice and the dryness. Next up, we have one of my favorite things to use in a barbecue sauce is tamarind extract. So tamarind is something that you’ll see most likely in Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s a fruit, very tart. You’re not gonna taste the tamarind. It’s just gonna start to sort of mingle with all these other flavors. And finally, tomato paste. And this, I’m gonna add quite a bit. About 1 1/2 tablespoons. And lastly, brown sugar. And let’s do two big heaping tablespoons of brown sugar. And then we’ve got the last two things, soy sauce, and vinegar. So I’m gonna do quite a bit, about 1 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce. All right, and last but not least, your apple cider vinegar. This gets up about two full cups. So we’re not playing around here. And that’s it, this is your barbecue sauce. Now, obviously all of this needs to come together so that it becomes one flavor versus all of these competing flavors. And that’s gonna take time. So we’re gonna put this back on the stove. Listen, at this point, you don’t have to watch it religiously, but do give it a stir to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. You don’t wanna rapid boil this. You wanna bring this up to a simmer and then really just let it go for about 15, 20 minutes. Just till all the flavors start to melt together. Everything in the pot will get really soft, then we puree it, and that’s it, your barbecue sauce. So I’ve got my blender ready to go, and I think my sauce is all melted together. There’s my barbecue sauce just waiting to be pureed, gonna go right in there. Pop your top on, and let’s do this, puree. All right, so there’s a little trick, too. Right at the end when I’m pureeing and I take a little bit of butter. Just drop it in there. Just a little extra love. All right, ooh, look at that. Let’s have a little taste of this. Oh, damn, that’s good. Another important thing is, when you blend the barbecue sauce, you’re pumping a lot of air into it. So you actually want to take it out, put it back in your pot, and you wanna just give it a quick simmer to sort of cook out all the bubbles. So then we’re just gonna keep that on a very low simmer at this point. And I will continue cooking that for another 10 minutes or so. It’s gonna keep concentrating the flavors and make it even better. Our barbecue sauce is done. And now, I think I’m gonna grill up some quail. These aren’t the most popular birds. You may not find them all the time in your grocer. But any butcher can order them for you. And if you can find them, if you wanna cook something really out of the ordinary, but so amazing, go out and get some quail. If you can’t get quail, obviously you can use chicken too. Chicken thighs, chicken breasts, all of it works great. But quail, to me, has just a richer, deeper, fuller flavor. The meat is almost like red meat. It’s really rich, it’s dark. It has a really full flavor. They’re tiny, but they cook up really fast about two birds feed one person. But if you’re like me, you could probably eat four or five. And there’s really not a lot to do with them. They generally come semi-boneless, which means that the wings and the leg bones are attached, but everything in here is deboned. So it’s a really easy bird to cook. I’m just gonna do a quick… I kind of pin the wings back, and I just lay them out. The wonderful thing about quail is there’s not too many farms that are growing them and the ones that do, do a really good job. So, I mean, really just wanna smell them, make sure they don’t smell old, but otherwise, they’re pretty good to go. I don’t really do a ton to them. I just do a little bit of olive oil, a little salt, a little pepper, and just kind of massage that a little bit. When you have great ingredients to start with, there’s not a ton that you need to do with it. All right, so I realize not all of you have a backyard with a grill. So if you don’t, get yourself a really nice, heavy-duty cast iron pan with some grills on it. Wait till it gets super hot on this one. You wanna test to see how hot your grill is. Throw some water on there. Did you hear that sizzle? It’s ready to go. You wanna start with that breast side hitting that grill pan. Breast side down. All right, so while this is cooking, really important, you wanna get nice grill marks showing on the breast side, so do not touch it. Really, the best thing right now is you wanna let this pan do the work. You wanna leave this undisturbed. So listen for the sizzle. Okay, now you see, I have my quail going in a diagonal direction to these grill marks. So I’m going to, at this point, I’m going to peek under this leg here, just a little bit, and that’s beautiful, that’s beautiful. They’re ready to turn. So this is really key here. What I’m gonna do is I’m gonna lift the quail off the grill, and I’m gonna set it 90 degrees in the opposite direction, that way. You see what I did right there? I just lifted them up and turn them 90 degrees. Lift. Turn. And we’re gonna leave that again for another about two minutes and what’s that going to give you are nice, even cross hatch marks. It’s gonna look really pretty. I’m gonna give another peek under here and see how my grill marks are doing. Oh, perfect! So at this point, now I’m gonna take my birds, and I’m gonna flip them over to the backside. Do you see your perfect grill marks there? Look at that. Beautiful! So any kind of grilled meat that you would do on a grill, you can do it here. And it sort of replicates having a grill. So obviously steaks, shrimp skewers, lamb chops. And what’s beautiful about this is because you’ve got the ridges, you’ve got air circulating underneath as well. So you’re getting a really beautiful cook on this. And what I do here is I’m gonna turn my heat down a little bit. The quail is pretty much cooked through, and this is a little tip. I just take a plate, and I’m gonna invert it. And what that does is it’s going to steam the meat, and it’s gonna ensure that all the meat on the inside is being fully cooked through. Not too long, ’cause you don’t wanna overcook it, but just at a good minute or so right then. And I got my heat off at this point. There’s no heat on this pan. I’m just using the residual heat that’s left over from the cooking and just kind of letting it steam and smoke in there. And again, see all that smoke there? It’s being trapped underneath that plate, and you’re kind of getting a little bit of that smoke flavor. Voila, and that’s it. Your quail is ready to go. Now, while that pan is still hot and everything’s still hot, I’m gonna work some of this barbecue sauce, what we call this is basically a mop sauce. And we’re just gonna start basting the entire quail. Just like that. Just painting the outside of your quail. Make sure you hit every surface and I’ll lift up the legs a little bit, get them between there. Get it all. And I’m gonna do a quick flip. I’m gonna do the backside as well. Do one last hit on the outside. And that’s it, you’re ready to plate. Just gonna lift it off the grill pan. All right, there they are, now let’s plate our dish. I’m gonna grab some of those watermelon rind pickles from earlier. All right, so let’s just plate this real simple. Not gonna get very fancy here. Quail number one. Quail number two, and I get a nice… Do a nice little pile of the pickle watermelon rind. Really, you can serve this with any kind of pickle that you have in house. You’re gonna want something nice and acidic with this, and right at the end, I just like to throw a little extra barbecue sauce on the side, in case you want a little extra dip. That’s it. It’s beautiful. Grilled quail, roasted banana barbecue sauce, pickled watermelon rind. Absolutely beautiful.

About the Instructor

James Beard Award winning writer and best-selling cookbook author Edward Lee takes viewers from the farm to his restaurants and home in Louisville, Kentucky and teaches lessons on his beloved dishes including Fried Chicken with Gochujang Sauce, Oysters and Grits, Cabbage-Steamed Fish, and more.

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John Doe