Of Blind Quail, Eating Gumbo with Potato Salad, and Toothsome Short Rib

Yes, the short rib really was toothsome.

This adjective was cause for chuckling at Monday night’s Blind Quail barbecue, but the meat was no laughing matter.  Unlike most which are tender yet stringy, what was clinging to this bone was melt in your mouth delicious. Firm, but rich and juicy, swaddled like a baby in bacon, and vacuum sealed in marinade for hours.

Good things come to those who wait.  Very patiently.

The feast was made possible by my friend and food blogger Steve of Blind Tastes who returned Sunday from a fortuitous hunting trip with his cousin Drew, producing a haul of 30 quails and a good excuse as any to celebrate.

It was a starry night, with clear skies and a chill in the air. Chef Chad Galiano, his wife Ming, and Marlee, their little porcelain doll of a baby girl, hosted at their Hollywood home.

Also doing the cooking, and responsible for the magical short rib, was Kurtis Jantz, Chad’s colleague and the executive chef at Trump International Beach Resort on Sunny Isles Beach. The two have history dating back to their days in New Orleans. Fast friendships are forged in a hotel kitchen working through a storm like Katrina.

For some of the motley crew called to assemble, Tweets are the ties that bind and aliases feel more familiar than names.

For all of us, whether connected by trials and tribulations or Twitter, an appreciation and love of good food is a common thread that guaranteed a good time.

In good company: Clockwise from left, Chef K (Jantz) and Chad, Eden Rock Executive Pastry Chef Jennifer Rissone and her date, Steve of Blind Tastes, David (Frod) of Food for Thought, and Steven (The Chowfather.)

To start, chips and onion dip, and an assortment of beers like Shipyard Ale, Polar, Corona, and Amstel Light. Then, comfort in a bowl, a sage-hued gumbo with cool potato salad. The trick — and tradition — is to eat the two together. Cooling cubes flecked with dill, meeting warm rice and pieces of chicken. An odd couple, but so right.

Then a plate of two sides — Brussels sprouts, and shrimp and green beans — and then ribs and the guest of honor… The quail which was cryovaced in an oxtail jus and cooked sous vide before being finished on a charcoal grill. There even was a game or two of horseshoes. And a final toast of the bubbly, to a wild year full of major ups and downs… and another to come!

But what of Steve’s excursion, the raison d’être as it were? We had a few questions. He had some answers.

Chef K unloading the goodies onto a sheet pan before handing off the grilling duties to Chad.

Daddy's little girl.

Daddy.

Kitchen Interviews (KI): What’s the best way to eat quail?

Blind Tastes (BT): I’ve had quail many different ways, but don’t have a favorite really. Sous vide with a finish on the charcoal grill was awesome cuz the birds picked up the charcoal flavor. I also had quail at Cafe Boulud in WPB a few nights prior to our BBQ and it was served with foie gras and mushroom duxelle on top of a nice piece of toast. Cobaya dinner #1 also featured quail roasted w/ ancho chili and a raisin cocoa nib jus.

KI: Would you prefer to always hunt for what you eat if you could?

BT: Hunting was fun but I don’t think you can really hunt for steak and pork (besides boar,) and I love that stuff. I would prefer to always hunt my own game bird and seafood if I could but that would be mighty expensive.

KI: How many times have you been hunting and whereabouts?

BT: First time was this hunt. Quail Creek Plantation in Okeechobee, FL.

KI: What kill are you most proud of?

BT: My first quail kill. One shot at about 40 yards away with a 20-gauge top loader shotgun.

Gumbolicious.

KI: Was there a kill that scared you?

BT: No, but I was always scared of the dogs running in the line of fire.

KI: How did you feel when you first went, and first shot something?

BT: Because it was a tiny bird it didn’t bother me. I used to shoot squirrels and little birds with bb guns as a kid. I don’t think I could shoot a deer though…

KI: Was it a Jeep that you rode out in? Who accompanied you from Quail Creek Plantation?

BT: It was a specially-designed buggy. We had a guide named Eric and the buggy had safety gear, gun racks, a cooler filled with drinks and cheese/cured sausage, and cages that housed the dogs.

KI: How many dogs were with you?

BT: 5 dogs were with us: Willie, Joker, Clyde, and Maggie were pointers (I forget the breed) and Storm was a black lab “retriever” who would flush out the birds.

KI: They make you wear orange jackets – are there any other requirements to be out there?

BT: No, just basic gun safety and to always be weary of where the buggy was parked to avoid shooting it or harming the dogs that were inside.

KI: How long were you out there for?

BT: 3.5 hours from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

KI: Did you learn how to clean the birds?

BT: No, they do that for you but I plucked a few feathers off of one bird just to see what it was like.

Gumbo gold, the file.

Quail in all her 'cued glory...

It's always eat o'clock somewhere: From noon, green beans and shrimp, some yummy rib, quail, Brussels sprouts, and potato salad.

The best short rib I've ever eaten.

One of the many things I learned in India; everything tastes better when shared with friends and eaten with the hands. This s-rib and its crispy bacon wrapping were certainly ready for their close-up.

Can't tell who's bottle-fed more, the adults or the baby? Neither can we!

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