Grilled Quail with Truffled-Balsamic Reduction

American author Thomas Wolfe suggested, wistfully, that you can never go home again––that the experiences that serve as brick and mortar to our memories are sometimes best left in the past.

Think then about the faces and lives in a restaurant kitchen. About a chef who came alive to the food world through endless prep work, marathon doubles, and an avalanche of brunch rushes. Consider that those repetitive acts led to jobs in esteemed restaurants across the country, appearances in national cooking shows, ownership of a restaurant empire across California, and accolades too numerous to count.

Think about Dakota Weiss, executive chef at Coyote Café, the storied Santa Fe restaurant where she staged after culinary school and now leads through its latest iteration of Southwestern cuisine? Just this once, Thomas Wolfe may have gotten it wrong. She’s come home again––with fresh, imaginative and palate-tingling results.

Because Dakota’s signature voice brings worldly nuance to our local food scene, we asked her to choose local ingredients and present us with three recipes. On one recent early morning, we watched her in the calm and quiet of Coyote’s kitchen as she brought these ingredients to life in ways that are as grounded in memories (does anyone remember the youthful thrill of 1970s Pop Rocks candy?) as they are alive and relevant in the present.

Grilled Quail with Truffled-Balsamic Reduction, Mesilla Pecan-Fig Crumble & Aji Amarillo

Serves 4

For the quail:

  • 4 quails

  • 2 rosemary sprigs

  • 2 thyme sprigs

  • Salt to taste

  • Black pepper to taste

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • ¼ cup blended oil


1.     Clip the wings off the quail. Poke a tiny hole in one of the legs and pull the tip of the other leg through that so it looks like the legs are naturally crossed.

2.     Add the herbs, garlic, and oil in a blender and mix well.

3.     Rub the herb puree all over the quail and allow them to marinate for an hour or so.

For the Truffle-Balsamic Reduction:

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar

  • ¼ cup white truffle oil

  • ¼ cup soy sauce

  • 1 ½ tbsp cornstarch

  • 1 tbsp cold water


1.     Add the balsamic vinegar, truffle oil, and soy into a pot and bring it to a boil, reducing the mixture by a quarter.

2.     Whisk together the cornstarch and water.

3.     Slowly add that mixture to the reduction and cook out the starch. The sauce should thicken until it coats a spoon.

For the Mesilla Pecan-Fig Crumble:

  • 6 oz Mesilla pecans, toasted

  • 4 oz dried Mission figs

  • 1 tsp Urfa Biber chili flakes

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1 tsp hibiscus, dried

  • 1 tsp juniper berry

  • Kosher salt to taste


Take all ingredients and add to a Robot-Coupe food processor. Mix until you have a crumble-like consistency.

Building the Plate:

1.     Grill the quail for about 2 ½ minutes on each side getting nice grill marks.

2.     Using a spoon, make a circle (1 ½ times larger than the quail) with the truffle balsamic. Place the grilled quail right on top of that.

3.     Put the pecan crumble on top of the quail breast.

4.     Add a dollop of Aji Amarillo paste to the plate.

5.     Garnish with any herbal microgreens.

 Story by Gabe Gomez/ Styling by Keith Recker / Photography Gabriella Marks

Try Chef Weiss’s other locavore recipes:

Grilled Asparagus

Buttermilk Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry Pop Rocks

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