Food & Drink

Quail with Grapes and Pearl Onions

Serves 4

A Mediterranean take on the South’s favorite game bird

Photo: Holly A. Heyser

“Quail with grapes is a dish seen all over the Mediterranean, most often in North Africa, where it is called saman bi einab,”  says Hank Shaw in his newest cookbook, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail. “It’s elegant without being fussy, and it comes together in less than an hour. And while quail is the most traditional, there’s no reason you couldn’t do this with partridges, cottontails, or pheasant breasts—or switch it up and use dove, pigeons, woodcock, or ptarmigan and red grapes. I love making this dish with clarified butter.


    • 1 pound pearl onions

    • 8 quail, backbones removed and flattened

    • Salt

    • 1/2 cup butter or olive oil

    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

    • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled but whole

    • 10 ounces green seedless grapes

    • Black pepper


  1. Take the quail out of the fridge and salt them well. Let them come to room temperature.

  2. Meanwhile, peel the pearl onions. You do this by boiling them in salted water for 2 minutes. Drain, let cool enough to handle, then slice off the root end of each onion. The peels will slip off. Set aside.

  3. Heat the butter in a pan large enough to hold all the quail plus the onions and the grapes. Over medium heat, cook the quail, breast-side up. During cooking, spoon the hot butter over the tops of the birds to gently cook the breast meat. You can flip the quail if you want them browner, but this risks overcooking. Cook like this for 5 to 8 minutes.

  4. Add the minced ginger, pearl onions, and garlic, and keep cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t let the garlic burn.

  5. Add the grapes, shake the pan to coat everything with butter, and sprinkle everything with salt and black pepper. Cook like this until the grapes start popping, about 2 minutes, then serve with crusty bread.

Reprinted with permission from Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail: Upland Birds and Small Game from Field to Feast.