During my 20 years as a hunting guide in New York, I rarely had the opportunity to hunt wild quail. We chased the odd preserve bird, but they never seemed to fly as well as you would hope, and they certainly didn’t have the flavor of a wild bird. In my first three years living in Florida, I have been able to chase wild quail more times than in the rest of my life combined. I also had the opportunity to pursue them in South Texas, and those were some of the hardest flying little upland birds I have every chased.
With a pile of quail in the freezer, it only seemed right that I honor them by having them as part of a meal which reflected their southern roots. I was able to get my hands on some fresh Georgia peaches, and Vidalia onions, which added to the authenticity of this dish. I have heard some hard-core southerners preach that you should never put cream or milk in your grits, but no one who has eaten my smoked cheese grits has had a complaint about the taste…or at least hasn’t had the balls to tell me about it.
Anyway, from top to bottom this recipe has a ton of flavor, and my family is already looking forward for the next covey to meet their demise so we can get back at the table to enjoy them on the plate!
Peach Barbecue Sauce
- 2 fresh peaches
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cloves garlic (finely minced)
- 1/2 a sweet onion (minced)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup peach preserves
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Smoked Cheese Grits
- 2 cups old-fashioned grits
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 8 ounces smoked white cheddar cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper, to taste
- 12 quail breasts (skinned)
- Black pepper
- Fresh parsley – chopped (for garnish)
Prepare the peach barbecue sauce first and set aside.
Peach Barbecue Sauce
- Chop the fresh peaches.
- In a saucepan, over medium heat, add the butter. Once hot add the minced garlic and onion. Cook until they begin to soften, but not brown.
- Add the fresh peaches and stir. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper. Stir well to combine.
- Keep stirring until the sauce begins to bubble, continue cooking to thicken, stirring occasionally. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon.
- Stir in peach preserves.
- Remove from heat and set aside. (I usually reserve some sauce on the side, which I will not baste from, so there is extra to serve with the quail.)
Smoked Cheese Grits
- In a large saucepan add water & 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil.
- Slowly add the grits to the boiling water, stirring constantly to combine.
- As grits begin to thicken, add cream and butter and return to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan with lid slightly ajar.
- Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they are smooth. You want the grits to get tender and thick.
- Add the cheese and season with fresh cracked black pepper, stirring until cheese melts.
- About halfway through the grits cooking, you should get the quail going, so everything is still nice and hot when it’s time to plate.
- Get your grill good and hot. If using coals make sure they are grey and ashy, so they are giving off good heat.
- Salt & pepper the breasts to taste.
- Set the quail on the grill, breast up. Cooked with lid down for 2 to 3 minutes. This will allow the meat to set and firm up a bit.
- Brush quail with sauce, turn over, and sauce the back side.
- Grill for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip quail breast side up, brush with sauce again.
- Grill for another 2 to 3 minutes, remove from grill and brush again with sauce before serving. (If checking with a meat thermometer, quail should be around 140 for doneness)
Time to eat!
- Place a nice heaping serving spoonful (or two) of grits on your plate
- Place grilled breasts on top. I usually serve 2 to 3 breasts per person, depending upon my “eaters” and their appetites (my teenage son is a bottomless pit and will eat a half dozen or more himself)
- Garnish with chopped parsley and fresh ground black pepper.
- Serve with reserved sauce on the side for those who like extra.