Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carole stands as one of the principal tomes on Christmas tradition. The imagery of the Cratchit home a glow with candles and mistletoe, packed to the gills with family and friends donning their Sunday best all to enjoy a traditional Christmas feast. Those traditional English foods litter the table like figgy pudding and the turkey provided by miser-turned philanthropist Ebenezer Scrooge.
For my own part I don’t know of a single human being that has ever had such a Christmas feast. I remember my family trying once or twice but it never seemed to work out. My mother was already exhausted from preparing victuals for my grandfather’s Christmas Eve gathering which usually hosted nearly a hundred friends and family from all over the country. The effort of getting up the next morning to cook a Thanksgiving-like meal for a dozen or so was daunting. My siblings, all three married and one with two kids, had in-laws to visit which often lead to unpredictable arrival times. That is the typical American Christmas Day.
My mother decided that Christmas feast was retired, unless someone else wanted to do all of the cooking. We replaced it with Christmas breakfast. Some years it little more than left over pie with a glass of egg nog. Don’t knock it. Usually, however, Christmas breakfast was biscuits and gravy. Sometimes we would have scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage with our biscuits and gravy but the most memorable accompaniment was fried quail.
I have never been much of a hunter but I sure enjoy the bounty of those who’ll kill a day tromping around the woods in search of game, especially quail. I don’t know why but gravy made from fried quail is so much tastier than gravy made from fried chicken or bacon or sausage. Luckily today you don’t have attack a covey of little birds with a scatter gun to enjoy quail. They are farm raised and available in the frozen food section of most grocery stores. And this is how you cook them:
- 12 quail, cleaned and dressed (frozen quail come this way)
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 2 cups flour (either 1½ cup AP & 1/2 cup rice or 2 cups AP)
- Coconut oil
- Salt and pepper
In a large airtight container place the quail and cover with quart of buttermilk. Marinate for 4 – 24 hours. When you are ready to cook heat a large cast iron skillet (cast iron really is the best for this) at medium high heat filled with 4 or 5 large scoops of coconut oil (may use canola oil 3/4” deep). Mix flour and salt and pepper to taste then place into a large deep walled bowl. Shake extra buttermilk from the quail then dredge in the flour, finally shake off excess flour and place into the skillet. When the skillet is full (but the quail should not touch) cook at medium high covered for roughly 7 minutes. Flip over and cook another 5 – 7 minutes covered or until all sides are brown then drain by placing quail onto a cooling rack over paper towels, lightly season at this point. Serve with your favorite biscuits and pan gravy.
- 1/3 cup AP flour
- 1/3 cup oil from frying the quail
- 1 – 2 quarts water
- Salt & pepper or Cajun Seasoning
Heat the oil in the same iron skillet. Add flour and stir constantly to make a roux, cooking for 5 – 7 minutes, season to taste. Bit by bit add water stirring constantly. Once the gravy thickens add the remaining water and allow to thicken slightly, stirring constantly. Taste and season.