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.