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Grilled Quail With Black Bean Torta and Poblano Sauce

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“Several years ago, I was an Associate Administrator for a hospital in South Texas, right on the border. It was more economical for me to lease a Ranchita across the border than to pay for an expensive apartment on this side. The place I leased was a former hunting and fishing lodge (complete with swimming pool, fine restaurant, etc). I retained the family that lived on the property as caretakers. The wife, Elise, was an excellent cook and we spent many an hour in the kitchen with her showing me how to cook authentic Mexican. She was originally from the Oachacan area and that was her specialty. The place had an over-abundance of white-wing dove, quail, javelina, wild boar, and the inevitable rabbits. Juan, the caretaker, also raised a few head of cattle. He also had a quite large garden. So we seldom had to go shopping for food. Elise knew that one of my favorite dishes was quail. So she came up with this dish.”
5hrs 15mins

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. For the Quail:
  2. Wash the ancho chilies and remove the stems and seeds. Soak the chilies in water for 5 minutes to soften them. In a blender, puree the ancho chilies, garlic, orange juice, and the juice of the lime with the oil. Marinate the quail in the puree for about an hour.
  3. For the Black Bean Tortas.
  4. (Refried Black Beans):
  5. Place the black beans, garlic, and epazote in a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the beans are soft. If necessary, add just enough additional water to keep the beans covered. When the beans are done, allow them to cool in their own liquid. When the beans are cool, puree half of them in their liquid until smooth. Combine the puree with the whole beans.
  6. In a heavy skillet or pot, combine the bacon and pork fat and cook over medium heat to render the fat. Add the cooked beans and stir the mixture over medium heat until the fat is absorbed and the mixture is thick. If the beans are too liquid, continue to cook slowly over medium heat to evaporate the liquid until the mixture is thick.
  7. In a clean skillet, heat the butter until hot. Add the bean mixture and heat until hot. Add the beaten eggs and scramble with the beans. Add the salt and transfer to a plate and keep warm.
  8. For the Guacamole:
  9. Split and seed the avocados. Remove the meat to a mixing bowl. Add the sweet red pepper, red onion, Serrano chili, cilantro, and juice from the lime to the avocado. With the back of a large spoon, mash the ingredients into a very coarse puree. Salt and pepper, to taste.
  10. To assemble the Tortas:
  11. With a 2 inch cookie cutter or small knife, punch out 12 small rounds from the tortillas. Spread some black beans (approximately 2 Tbsp) on one tortilla. Add a nugget (1/2 oz) of goat cheese to the black beans and top with the avocado mixture. Finish the tortas by covering the avocado mixture with a second small tortilla. In a large flat skillet, heat a Tbsp of butter over moderate heat. Slowly fry the tortas on both sides until the tortillas are golden brown. Keep warm.
  12. For the Sauce:
  13. Grill the poblano chilies over a charcoal fire or under a broiler until the skins are charred. When cool, peel and seed the chilies. Grill or broil the onion slices, tomatillos, and garlic cloves until lightly cooked. Heat the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet until lightly toasted. In a blender, combine the chilies, tomatillos, onion, garlic, maple syrup, and one half of the pumpkin seeds with the chicken stock. Blend briefly (10 seconds) to give a coarse puree. Do not over blend. Transfer the puree to a sauce pot. If the puree is too thick, add more stock; if too thin, boil gently to reduce to a sauce-like consistency. Just before serving, heat the sauce over moderate heat. Add the chopped cilantro and the remaining pumpkin seeds and whip in the butter. Salt and pepper, to taste.
  14. For the Tomato Salsa:
  15. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Combine with the minced onion, chopped cilantro, and minced chili. Add the juice of the lime and mix thoroughly. Salt and pepper, to taste.
  16. To assemble the dish:
  17. Grill the quail, skin side down, over a charcoal fire or skin side up in a broiler on a wire rack. The quail should be cooked almost entirely on the skin side. Grill the quail on the meat side for only a few seconds. This will prevent the meat from becoming too dry. The meat should be pink and not over-cooked. Depending on the temperature of the fire, three to four minutes should be sufficient.
  18. Place a warm black bean torta in the center of a dinner plate. Top each with some sour cream. Spoon some sauce onto each plate around the torta. Place a grilled quail on each side of the torta. Garnish with the tomato salsa and some sprigs of cilantro.

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