James Beard Award-winning chef Anne Quatrano is one of the South's most respected chefs. Although she was raised in Connecticut, she attributes her passion for cooking to spending time with her grandmother in the kitchen and summers at her mother's family farm near Cartersville, Georgia. A longtime proponent of sustainability, Anne prides herself on using locally grown seasonal and organic produce, much of which is from her own garden at the same family farm that inspired her as a child, Summerland, where she now resides. She and her husband, chef Clifford Harrison, operate five of Atlanta's most celebrated restaurants. Her food and style of cooking is grounded in perfectly executed technique and the philosophy of using the best quality basic ingredients to produce something spectacular. This recipe is adapted from her beautiful cookbook, also named Summerland, based on a calendar year at her farm. Quail meat is white and delicately flavored. Wild quail will taste stronger and a bit gamier than farm-raised quail.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has cooked away and the mushrooms are tender, 5 minutes. Add the bourbon and cook until it has evaporated, 45 to 60 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate to cool, 10 minutes. Once cooled, add the ground chicken and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. (To taste and adjust the seasoning, simply zap a teaspoon or so of the mixture in a bowl in the microwave to cook it through. Season with salt and pepper as needed.)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a tablespoon, stuff the interior of each quail with the mushroom-chicken mixture. Using kitchen twine, tie the legs of each bird together, and then flip the wingtips under the back of each bird to hold the wings in place. Brush the birds with the melted butter, and then season heartily with salt and pepper. Roast, basting occasionally with the melted butter, until the birds are pale golden brown and the interior of the stuffing registers 165 degrees F when measured with an instant-read thermometer, 30 minutes.
Switch the oven to broil and place the birds under the broiler to darken the skin, if desired, for 45 to 60 seconds depending on the strength of your broiler. Serve immediately.