Pomegranate-Glazed Roasted Quail

Quail is definitely worth seeking out.
Quail is definitely worth seeking out.

Quail is one of the unsung heroes of fast cooking.

These little birds, with flavorful dark meat, cook up in no time flat.

In fact, it may take longer to hunt them down at a store — than to actually prepare them at home.

When Sprouts first opened, I rejoiced that its freezer section was regularly stocked with frozen quail. However, that ended more than a year ago. Then, I was relieved to find them in the freezer case of Whole Foods. Again, that was short-lived. Now, I grab them when I can find them lurking in the corner of the freezers at Zanotto’s in San Jose. Fingers crossed that they keep being a staple there.

I wish more people would give them a try. They are slightly duck-like in taste, and cook in about 10 minutes on the backyard grill or about 15 minutes in the oven.

“Pomegranate-Glazed Roasted Quail” is a no-brainer to make at home. It’s easy-peasy, and delicious with tangy-sweet-fruity pomegranate molasses scented with cinnamon and thyme glazed all over.

The recipe is from “The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook: 500 Vibrant, Kitchen-Tested Recipes for Living and Eating Well Every Day” by America’s Test Kitchen.

The cookbook, of which I received a review copy, is a wealth of judiciously tested recipes with Mediterranean influences. Savor everything from “Mussels Escabeche,” “Spiced Fava Bean Soup” and “Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta” to “Pan-Roasted Halibut with Chermoula,” “Spanish Grilled Octopus Salad with Orange and Bell Pepper,” and “Fig Phyllo Cookies.”

The quail get brined for 20 minutes to help them cook evenly with bronzed skin. Then, they’re seared on the stovetop before being brushed with the glaze and going into the oven to finish cooking.

Make a little slit in one leg and insert the other one into it before cooking.
Make a little slit in one leg and insert the other one into it before cooking.

The only slightly fussy part about this recipe is the direction for making a slit in one of each of the bird’s tiny legs in order to insert the other leg into it neatly. But this only takes a few minutes to do with all eight quail, and it makes for more even cooking and a neater presentation.

Serve the deliciously sticky-glazed quail with couscous or pilaf. And don’t hesitate to use your fingers to dig in.

With deeply browned skin slathered in a sticky sweet-tangy glaze, these quail are as mouth-watering as it gets.
With deeply browned skin slathered in a sticky sweet-tangy glaze, these quail are as mouth-watering as it gets.

Pomegranate-Glazed Roasted Quail

(Serves 4)

Salt and pepper

8 (5- to 7-ounce) whole quail, giblets discarded and neck snipped off with shears and discarded

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, store-bought or home-made (recipe below)

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Set wire rack in aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and spray with vegetable oil spray. Dissolve 1/2 cup salt in 2 quarts water in a large container. Submerge quail in brine and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Remove quail from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and season with pepper. Working with 1 quail at a time, make incision through meat of one drumstick, using tip of paring knife, about 1/2 inch from tip of drumstick bone. Carefully insert other drumstick through incision so legs are securely crossed. Tuck wingtips behind back.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high until just smoking. Brown 4 quail on all sides, about 4 minutes; transfer to prepared rack. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 4 quail.

Combine pomegranate molasses, thyme, cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in bowl. Brush quail evenly with half of pomegranate molasses mixture and roast for 5 minutes. Brush quail with remaining pomegranate molasses mixture and continue to roast until well browned and breasts register 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 7 to 13 minutes. Transfer quail to serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve.

Pomegranate Molasses

(Makes 2/3 cup)

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon sugar

4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine water and sugar in medium saucepan until sugar is completely moistened. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook until sugar begins to turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes, gently swirling saucepan as needed to ensure even cooking. Continue to cook until sugar begins to smoke and is the color of peanut butter, about 1 minute. Off heat, let caramel sit until mahogany brown, 45 to 60 seconds. Carefully swirl in 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice until incorporated; mixture will bubble and steam. Slowly whisk in remaining pomegranate juice and lemon juice, scraping up any caramel.

Bring mixture to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until tight, slow-popping bubbles cover surface and syrup measures 2/3 cup, 30 to 35 minutes. (If you accidentally over-reduce the syrup, you can slowly whisk in warm water as needed to measure 2/3 cup.) Let cool slightly, then transfer to container and continue to cool to room temperature. (Pomegranate molasses can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 1 month.)

From “The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen

More Ways to Use Pomegranate Molasses: Fig, Walnut & Freekeh Salad

And: Syrian Kale and Carrot Salad with Shattered Dates

And: Peachy Pork or Veal with Pomegranate Molasses and Charred Onions

And: Pistachio and Pomegranate Meatballs

And: Turkish Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Shoulder Chops and Carrots

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  • I’m thinking about forwarding this recipe on to a friend who just received a box of quail from a friend as she was asking me if I knew of how she could prepare them. I only see one problem, her husband is on a rigid salt free diet. Would you think they would still be good without the salt brine?

  • Hi Karen: Yes, you could skip the brining. I believe America’s Test Kitchen only does that method in order to ensure the skin browns up nicely. However, I have cooked quail many a time on the grill without brining, and it comes out delicious that way, too.

  • I love quail too, but have to say it is a lot of work to eat for the little morsels of meat. I’m going to try this pomegranate glaze with a whole chicken! Haha.

  • 6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, store-bought or home-made (recipe below)

    Did you forget the recipe?

  • Karen: I did accidentally hit “post” before adding the recipe part to make the pomegranate molasses. It is on the post now. Thanks for the heads-up on that. 😉

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