Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

August 1, 2010

We had been talking about a quail dish for a while, and what better segue from the last post than to describe the dish we put on the menu tonight:  buttermilk-fried quail with cheese grits, fresh black-eyed peas, ham hocks, red eye gravy and pickled watermelon rind.  Serve it with a side of rusted-chevy-propped-up-on-cinder-blocks-in-the-yard and that’s as Southern as an Alabama Slammer.

Here’s where the deep fryer works its magic:  a small piece of realtively lean protein can be cooked quickly, yet insulated from the direct heat, so it gets crispy, gets cooked, and stays moist.  Its crunchy exterior is a perfect contrast to the creaminess of the (Anson Mills antebellum-style) cheese grits.  The black-eyed peas are BRIGHT GREEN, even more so after they’ve been blanched, something I never once saw in the South.  The ham hocks have been poached and picked, and the resulting cuisson is used to flavor the red-eye gravy.  The pickled watermelon rind is a sweet, sour, and cool counterpoint to the heat, spice and richness of the rest of the components.

As with most Southern food, it’s best enjoyed with sweet tea, cold beer, or pink champagne.

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