Spatchcocking is a technique used to open up the carcass of white meat poultry (such as chicken, pheasant or guinea hens) so that it cooks faster and more evenly. Anybody can do it at home; you just need a large, heavy knife and/or poultry shears. The quail you buy (we got ours at Wagshal's Market in Northwest Washington, 202-363-0777) may already come partially boned and skewered. If not, see the NOTE for how to break it down.
You will need 2 small skewers for each bird. If you can't find quail, very small Cornish hens may be substituted.
Serve hot, with a green salad and a spicy mayonnaise or aioli (see related recipe).
Make Ahead: The quail need to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Servings: 8 appetizer servings
- 8 quails (about 2 1/2 pounds total; see headnote)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- Leaves from a few stems of rosemary or several stems of marjoram, chopped (1 tablespoon)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the birds on a cutting board and prepare; see NOTE. Push a small skewer through the wings and a small skewer through the thighs of each quail, or a large skewer through the thigh diagonally to the breast or wing. Transfer the skewered quail to a shallow baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer.
Combine the oil, crushed red pepper flakes and rosemary or marjoram in a liquid measuring cup. Drizzle over the quail, turning to coat both sides, and marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Season both sides of the quail with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, place 4 of the quail, cut sides down, in the skillet or pan and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and crisped on the bottom. Use tongs to turn them over; reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 10 minutes until the quail have firmed up and the meat is just cooked through. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm while you cook the remaining quail.
Just before serving, return the first batch of quail to the skillet or pan just to warm through.
Divide among individual plates; serve hot.
NOTE: To spatchcock a bird, insert a heavy chopping knife into the cavity of the bird from the back end to the neck. Press down sharply to cut through the backbone. Alternatively, place the bird breast side down on the cutting board, and using poultry shears, cut along the entire length of the backbone, as close to the center as possible. Open the bird out and flatten as much as possible.
Adapted from "The Forgotten Skills of Cooking," by Darina Allen (Kyle, 2010).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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