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Fried Quail With Sausage And Oyster Cream

From John Martin Taylor's Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking (Bantam, April 2000).

Throughout the South, former cotton plantations remain as large tracts of land maintained as hunting preserves. The quail is a small game bird that spends most of its time on the ground. In the region, it's often (incorrectly!) called a "partridge," and it's favored for its delicious white flesh. Serve one of these birds to each person as an appetizer for a big celebratory meal such as Christmas or a rehearsal dinner, or serve two as the main course.

  • 4 quail, dressed for cooking
  • unbleached all-purpose flour for dusting
  • lard or oil for pan-frying
  • 1 cup shucked oysters and their liquor
  • 1/4 pound of country sausage
  • 1 cup of cream

Preheat the oven to its lowest setting and place a cooking rack over a sheet pan in the oven. Rinse the quail, pat dry, then dust in the flour. Do not season the flour; the sausage is very salty and spicy.

Fry the quail in a small amount of oil or lard in a skillet over high heat until they are golden brown, turning once, about 10 minutes. Remove to the rack in the oven to keep them warm while you prepare the cream sauce.

Drain the oysters and set aside, reserving the liquor. Put the sausage in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until all of the grease is rendered out and the sausage is evenly browned. Remove the sausage from the pan and allow it to drain. Pour off the grease and discard.

Add the cream and the oyster liquor to the pan and reduce over high heat until the sauce is just shy of the desired consistency, stirring often and scraping any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and crumble the cooked sausage into the cream. Add the oysters, heating the sauce through until the oysters just begin to curl, just a minute or two. Remove the birds from the oven to plates. Pour the sauce over the birds, dividing the oysters and bits of sausage equally among the plates.

Makes 4 appetizer servings; 2 main course servings.

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