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Grilled Quail on Vidalia Onion & Country Bacon Spoonbread, Pinot Noir & Sundried Cherry Jus
Recipe from Chef Ben Barker

Yield: 8 servings

  • 8 fresh or frozen semi-boneless quail, 4-4 1/2 ounces each
    (defrost in fridge for 24 hours if using frozen)


  • 2 shallots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed with flat side of knife
  • 2 tablespoons molasses (or you can substitute pomegranate molasses)
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons coarsely ground or cracked black pepper
  • Spoonbread (see below)
  • Sour Cherry Compote (see below)

Pinot Noir Jus

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Reserved wing tips from quail
  • 6 oz. vidalia onions, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons garlic cloves, sliced
  • Half cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup fruity Pinot Noir (e.g. California)
  • Strained liquid from cherry compote
  • 1 qt. Chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 thyme sprigs for garnish


1. Make compote. Make spoonbread through step three.

2. Trim wing tips from the quail; reserve for sauce. Make an incision in skin at base of the breast bone and tuck legs through to aid in cooking uniformly. Combine marinade ingredients and coat quail in mixture. Marinate 4 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigeration 20-30 minutes before cooking.

3. Make sauce. Heat olive oil in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Brown quail wing tips over medium heat 8-10 minutes. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened and lightly caramelized. Deglaze with vinegar, wine and compote liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce by 2/3. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil and simmer to reduce by half, skimming any impurities. Strain and reduce to 1 1/2 cups. Add black pepper, thyme, and season, keep warm.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Light grill (or broiler, if using). Complete spoonbread and bake. When spoonbread is done, wipe marinade off quail. Grill quail, breast-side down over medium hot coals for 3-4 minutes, until well-browned. Turn and finish on back for 2-3 minutes.

5. Spoon approximately 3/4 cup of spoonbread onto individual warm plates. Place a quail, breast-side up on top of spoonbread. Spoon 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of compote over and around. Spoon sauce over and around and garnish with a thyme sprig.


  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups Half & Half
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 8 tablespoons butter (4 ounces), cut into pieces
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 oz. apple-smoked bacon, julienned
  • 8 oz. Vidalia or other sweet onions, peeled and sliced


Cook bacon until crisp, drain on paper towel, reserve drippings. Cook onions over low heat in reserved drippings until very soft and lightly caramelized. Puree in food processor, cool and reserve.

2. Heat milk, Half & Half, salt, and sugar in heavy saucepan over medium heat. When small bubbles appear around edge, slowly whisk in cornmeal and flour, stirring constantly. Continue to stir as mixture cooks and thickens. When smooth and creamy, remove from heat and stir in butter until completely absorbed.

3. Beat yolks and cream together until lightened in color. Gradually add to cornmeal mixture. Next, add 3/4 cup of onion puree, bacon, and thyme. (Can be made ahead to this point.) Reserve at room temperature.


5. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into cornmeal mixture. Spread into lightly buttered hotel pan. Bake at 350 degrees until puffy, golden, brown, and just set.

6. Cover with a towel and keep warm while finishing quail.

Sour Cherry Compote

  • 2 cups wild sour cherries, or other tart cherries, pitted (or 1 1/2 cups dried sour cherries)
  • 1/2 cup dried bing cherries
  • 1/2 cup ruby port
  • 1/2 cup Pinot Noir
  • 2 tablespoons grenadine molasses or sorghum molasses

Tied in a cheesecloth sachet:

  • 4 star anise
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 12 crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf

Combine port, red wine, molasses, and sachet spice bag.

Bring to a boil, add dried cherries, bring back to a boil, and remove from heat.

Stir in sour cherries, and cool. Refrigerate. Keeps one week.


StarChefs Ben and Karen Barker opened Magnolia Grill in 1986. The restaurant is located at Ninth & Knox, Durham, North Carolina, 919-286-3609 and its chefs have been recognized by The James Beard Foundation, Rising Star Chefs on Public Television, Nation's Restaurant News' Hall of Fame, Wine Spectator's "Award of Excellence" and by many other prestigious organizations and publications.

Ben is founding organizer of Share Our Strength's "Taste of the Nation" event in the Triangle. In 1994, the Barkers initiated an annual fundraising effort to start The Magnolia Fund; providing grant assistance, targeted at promoting collaborative efforts among various Triangle-based AIDS service agencies. One-hundred percent of proceeds, a total of over $320,000 in six years, goes directly to grant funding.