Yucatecan style quail: Codorniz a la yucateca

articles Food & Cuisine Recipes

Karen Hursh Graber

Yucatecan style quail, typical of the Mexican state of Yucatan, uses a recado, one of the spice pastes that distinguish the region’s cuisine. This recipe can also be used with chicken or turkey, increasing proportions according to the weight of the bird.


For the recado:

  • 3 peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 2 whole cloves
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • vinegar, as necessary

Grind the spices to a powder in a spice grinder or molcajete, mix with the crushed garlic and enough vinegar to bind it all together into a paste. Set aside.

For the quail:

  • 8 cleaned quail, 6-8 ounces each
  • ½ head garlic, roasted and peeled
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 habanero chiles, seeded for less heat (habaneros are quite hot)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 allspice berries
  • salt to taste
  • ½ cup bitter orange juice, or use half regular orange juice and half rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Place the quail, garlic, onion, chile, spices, water to cover and salt to taste in a stockpot, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, until the quail is just barely cooked through.

Remove the quail and place in a roasting pan. Strain and reserve the broth. Mix the recado (above) with the bitter orange juice and olive oil, and brush this mixture over the quail. Bake at 350º for 15 minutes or until the quail is golden brown. (In the Yucatan, where the weather is warm all year, some people grill the quail instead of placing it in the oven.)

While the quail is in the oven, reduce the broth by about one third. Serve the quail in shallow bowls with the broth poured over.

Serves 4.

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Published or Updated on: November 1, 2005 by Karen Hursh Graber © 2005
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