“You can’t serve chicken to ranchers—it’s just not going to fly,” chef Tom Perini says. But chicken fried quail is a different story. Tom and his wife, Lisa, perfected the recipe a decade ago and serve it at catering events and occasionally at their award-winning Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, Texas.
“Chicken-fried steak is a traditional Texas meal,” Lisa says, “and this is a fun spin on that.” Because quail is often juicier and more flavorful than chicken, explains Tom, it doesn’t need a lot of seasoning, so they keep it simple with salt, pepper, and flour. The recipe calls for a bird that’s been deboned, making for neat eating.
Quail season in Texas opens on October 31 this year, but for those who crave quail outside the season, the Perinis recommend ordering frozen quail through Broken Arrow Ranch, a supplier based in Ingram, Texas. When the bird is ready to fry, the Perinis stick to a cast-iron pan. “There’s just something about the way cast iron holds heat, and something about the way quail looks frying in the pan,” Tom says. They plate it with classic sides. “Mashed potatoes and gravy with a fried quail,” Tom says, “those just always go together.”