Food & Drink

Southern Fried Quail with a French Twist

Chef Nicolas Lebas upgrades the fall bird with cornflakes, an apple slaw stuffing, and a red bell pepper glaze

Photo: Hannah Lozano Photography

Barnsley Resort’s executive chef, Nicolas Lebas, started toying with quail in the kitchen when guests at the Adairsville, Georgia, property began bringing it in fresh from the hunt. “I wanted to do something surprising for them,” Lebas says, and he succeeded: His quail gets coated in cornflakes and fried, stuffed with apple slaw, drizzled with a red bell pepper glaze, and brightened with a fennel frond salad. 

The dish relies on local ingredients, including sorghum syrup, apples, and fennel frond. “I always study the region and ingredients where I work, then use French techniques and plating to execute my dishes,” says Lebas, who was born in Marseilles, France. “I’m always thinking about visuals, and texture, too, and with this you have a colorful plate with sweetness, a little heat, and crunch.”

Lebas uses a sous vide while at Barnsley, but to make the quail at home without one, he recommends boiling water, double wrapping the bird to make sure the filling doesn’t come out, and immersing it for about fifteen minutes, before cooling in ice water. You can swap out the fennel frond for another lettuce, like frisée, and adjust the cayenne and black pepper levels according to taste. The slaw is a key element, Lebas says—it ensures the bird stays extra moist.

Those at Barnsley Resort who bring Lebas their quail don’t regret it: “When I cook this for people, the plate comes back empty, so I think that’s a good sign.” 


  • Cornflake-Fried Quail (Yield: 6 servings)

    • 6 semi-boneless quail

    • Buttermilk, to cover the quail


    • 2 cups all-purpose flour

    • ¾ cup semolina

    • ½ cup cornflakes

    • 2 tbsp. sea salt flakes

    • 1½ tsp. cayenne pepper

    • 1 tbsp. kosher salt

    • 1 tsp. ground black pepper


    • 1 Granny Smith apple, finely diced

    • 1 medium leek, finely diced

    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter

    • Kosher salt, to taste

    • Ground black pepper, to taste


    • 1 red bell pepper

    • ½ cup sorghum syrup

    • Kosher salt, to taste

    • Ground black pepper, to taste


    • 1 cup fennel fronds

    • 1 dash of extra-virgin olive oil

    • 1 tsp. lemon juice

    • 1 pinch of sea salt


  1. Make the seasoned cornflake flour: In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together, crushing the cornflakes slightly. 

  2. Make the apple slaw: In a medium saucepan, cook the apple, leek, and butter over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes, while stirring. Season with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Refrigerate until chilled.

  3. Make the red bell pepper glaze: Rub the red bell pepper with a light amount of olive oil seasoned with salt, then roast in the oven at 375°F for about 15 minutes, or until the skin is looking almost burned. Transfer to a mixing bowl and cover with plastic film for 10 minutes to create condensation, then peel the skin off the pepper under cold water and remove the seeds. Transfer the red bell pepper to a blender and slowly add the sorghum syrup at low speed to create a smooth emulsion. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Leave out at room temperature to let cool, so that when plated the glaze is at room temperature.

  4. Cook the quail: Rinse quail under cold water to get rid of any blood impurities and pat dry with paper towel. Stuff the quail with the cold apple slaw and wrap each quail into a cylinder using plastic film, just like a sausage. Double wrap and cook sous vide at 150°F for 2 hours. Plunge into ice water to set. Once cold, unwrap the plastic and submerge the quail into the buttermilk and toss in the seasoned flour. Fry in canola oil at 350°F until golden brown and finish in the oven by baking at 350°F for 8 minutes. You can also cook the quail steamed or poached using the same plastic wrap method if you do not possess a sous vide circulator.

  5. Make the fennel fronds salad: In a small mixing bowl, mix the fennel fronds with a dash of olive oil, the lemon juice, and a pinch of sea salt.  

  6. To plate: Drizzle a generous amount of red bell pepper glaze on the plate. Cut the fried quail in half and arrange on the plate, garnishing with the fennel frond salad.