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Lemony, Spiced, Tandoor Quail

  • TOTAL TIME: 50 MIN Plus 4hr Marinating
  • SERVINGS: 6
  • HEALTHY
  • STAFF-FAVORITE

At Samode, a 400-year-old palace-turned-hotel north of Jaipur in the Aravalli hills, chef Krishna Kumar told Peggy Markel his secret for especially juicy and tender quail: Marinate the bird first in lemon juice and hot paprika, then in a mixture of yogurt, ginger and the spice blend garam masala. Cooking the quail on a grill pan, then popping it in a Western-style oven, gives it a nicely smoky flavor similar to the kind created by a tandoor oven.

  1. 12 whole quail, necks and wing tips removed
  2. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges, for serving
  3. Salt
  4. 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  5. 1 cup whole-milk yogurt
  6. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped ginger
  7. 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  8. 1 tablespoon unsweetened toasted wheat germ
  9. 1 teaspoon garam masala
  10. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for grilling
  11. 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  12. Freshly ground pepper
  13. 1 head of romaine, cut into bite-size pieces
  14. 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  1. Using a sharp knife, make a 1/4-inch-deep slash in each breast half and thigh of each quail. Transfer the quail to a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice; rub to coat thoroughly. Season the quail with salt and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the paprika over the quail; rub the seasonings into the slashes. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. In a mini food processor, combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic, wheat germ, garam masala, the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and remaining 2 teaspoons of paprika and process until smooth. Coat the quail with the marinade, cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°. Heat a large grill pan and coat it with vegetable oil. Grill 4 quail at a time over moderately high heat until nicely charred all over, 5 minutes total. Transfer the quail to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining quail.
  4. Transfer the quail to the oven and roast for about 12 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the breasts reads 130° for medium-rare.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the romaine and red onion and toss. Mound the salad on plates and top with the quail. Serve, passing lemon wedges at the table.

Suggested Pairing

Even farm-raised quail has a gamey intensity that makes it more suitable for red wine than white. Pour a good Pinot Noir with these Indian-spiced birds—Pinot's own gaminess complements quail perfectly. Oregon Pinots tend to be spicier and earthier than fruity California ones.