Friday, January 27, 2023 Jan 27, 2023
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Food and Drink

A Southern Quail Fry

The art of a frying quail with Jacque Wynne.
By Jane Donosky Condon |

GOOD TIMES: Our gracious hostess in action.

The Dallas Diva
Mrs. Jacque Wynne, a true Dallas original, hosts a Southern quail fry at home.

COME AND GET IT: James Bramlett, like Jacque, believes in a good cast-iron skillet. (Left) Jacque dons jeans and the traditional Chanel heels for this Southern quail fry. (Below) A peek into Jacque’s bedroom.

Toddie shot the Bengal tiger when it was still legal, our hostess says when she sees my husband looking askance at a stuffed tiger and its neighbor, a cheetah, mounted on the wall. David and I exchange a quick glance. We’re being led upstairs to an informal living area in the Knox-area townhome of local socialite Jacque Wynne, wife of the late oil tycoon Toddie Lee Wynne Jr.  

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to one of Jacque’s dinner parties, you clear your schedule and go. A real-life steel magnolia, Jacque could give the Sweet Potato Queens a lesson or two, as she’s got a passion for friends, family, and entertaining. So when she invited my husband and me for a quail fry, we jumped at the chance to sample her famous Southern cooking.

David, around here, the men are in charge of the bar, so pick your poison and your glass, Jacque says in her deep, raspy voice. A brunette beauty who grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from SMU, she’s as comfortable in the jeans she’s wearing tonight as a couture gown at the Crystal Charity Ball”or hand-beaded Western attire at the Cattle Baron’s Ball, which she founded.

I just love this place, says Mary Black, a local Realtor and civic volunteer who’s come with her husband Robert, an old-school, Dallas-oil kind of guy. You don’t know where to look first. Jacque is leading the four of us from the door to join the rest of the party.

As we pass Jacque’s bedroom, I sneak a peek. A mirrored wall reflects us from behind a white four-poster bed stuffed with floral linens. A needlepoint pillow bears the title Diva. Framed photos show Jacque with George Bush, as a princess at the Corpus Christi Buccaneer Days, and with her late husband.

A Norah Jones CD plays in the background as we reach the elegant living area that’s filled with mementos of her life as a socialite, big-game hunter, and world traveler. With 12-foot-tall raw-silk draperies lining one wall and big-game trophies covering the others, it’s a cross between a hunting lodge and a boudoir.

Hey, y’all, Brenda Gray greets us. Brenda is a charity volunteer; she’s here with her husband Rick, a commercial real estate mogul.

Mary Black enjoys the evening’s pursuits: wine, food, and conversation.

Got my cookin boots on, says James Bramcon Bramlett, as he swaggers in from the kitchen, wiping his hands on his apron. James owns and operates a construction company when he’s not shooting and frying quail, as he did for tonight’s dinner.

If Bramcon weren’t back there frying up the quail, I’d be messin up my hair, Jacque laughs. James is my best huntin buddy, and neither of us would ever fry without our cast-iron skillets.

As we climb the stairs “complete with elephant-tusk handrails “to the dining room, Jacque lays down the law. Sit anywhere, she says. But husbands and wives have to split up. That’s the rule.

The table is magnificent; it’s surrounded by chairs with leopard-print seats and set with sterling candelabras passed down from her grandmother. The place mats and napkins bear hand-embroidered quails. (I had these linens made in Madeira, Spain. I sent a picture of a quail, and it took a year to get them back, she says.) 

Dinner is pure heaven: pecan, blue cheese, and apple salad; chicken-fried quail; gravy and mashed potatoes; collard greens; and, of course,  jalape corn bread.

Tell me, how many quail did y’all shoot? I ask.

We don’t miss much, but you can only shoot 15 a day, says James. My lady Mary Lucille went with us; you want to see her picture?

That’s his girlfriend, Rick explains as James fishes out his wallet. As I look at the photo he’s passed me, I realize Mary Lucille is a dog. No, really, she’s a dog “a hunting dog “and it’s obvious that this lady is his pride and joy.

The meal is a long, leisurely affair “good food and great conversation. When dessert is presented, we all seem to find room. Jacque’s dear friend, David Sokol, the executive chef of Brook Hollow Golf Club, made strawberry shortcake from Jacque’s mom’s recipe (see below). Jacque opens a magnum of champagne, a 1975 Moet & Chandon, to go along with dessert. That’s just the kind of gal she is. 

When we finally push away from the table, no one’s in a hurry to go home. Impromptu dancing breaks out to Marvin Gaye tunes as the evening winds down. But someone finally begins to make My, look at the time noises.

Before y’all go, Jacque says, herding us all together again, I’ve got to add you to my wall of shame “it’s party pix time. And don’t forget your favors. I learned how to burn CDs today, so y’all can each take home Norah Jones to remember the night.

Jacque’s Entertaining Tips

Candles “and lots of them. Especially votive candles in amber-colored cups, which are incredibly flattering to guests.
 Don’t fret if all of your china, crystal, and silver doesn’t match. Mix it up! It can be fun to set each place setting differently; guests will enjoy comparing patterns. Try putting objects you love and have collected on the table in addition to flowers. 
Party pix are a great idea. Buy an inexpensive frame for each guest. Take digital pictures, and give them to your guests, framed, as they leave.
 Serve dessert an hour after dinner in the living room. This allows you to finish the wine and get hungry for something special. 
Think individual flower arrangements, rather than one large centerpiece. Place a small, inexpensive pot or container filled with choice blooms at each place for guests to take home at the end of the night. 
Don’t try to do it all yourself. Let your guests help with an appetizer, dessert, or wine.
Pay attention to your table. Jacque used quail linens, leopard-print candles, and King Protea, the national flower of big-game hunting country: South Africa.

Jacque Wynn’s Party Menu

Jacque and James Fried Quail
(allow 2 or 3 birds per person)

Pour just enough peanut oil to cover the quail into an iron skillet. Heat the oil.

Add flour, salt, and pepper to taste in a plastic bag. Dip quail in milk, add to the bag, and shake.

Drop coated quail in skillet, and cook until crispy on the outside. (Don’t overcook. It’s better to undercook the bird, if you’re in doubt.)

Remove the bird from the oil, and allow it to drain a bit on paper towels. Cut into a bird; if the meat is not white, cook it a bit longer.

Jalape Greens

Jacque’s fat-free recipe for collard greens: drop two or three chicken bouillon cubes and 3 whole jalapeño peppers into boiling water. Add 11/2 pounds of greens, and boil until soft. Be sure to buy your greens the day of the party.

Chef David Sokol’s dessert homemade angel food cake with fresh strawberries, a caramelized bird’s nest, and homemade whipped cream”got rave reviews.

Chef Dave’s Angel Food Cake
 1        cup cake flour
 1 1/2  cup sugar
 1/4     teaspoon salt
 10      egg whites, room temperature
 1        teaspoon cream of tartar
 2        teaspoons vanilla extract
 2        teaspoons fresh lemon juice
 1 1/2  teaspoons lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together cake flour, salt, and half of the sugar. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whip together egg whites and cream of tartar to form a meringue. Add the remaining sugar.

Combine the flour mixture and the meringue by hand. Fold in vanilla extract, lemon juice, and zest. Pour batter into a buttered and floured Bundt pan. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve with fresh strawberries, strawberry sauce, and homemade whipped cream.

Strawberry Sauce
 1     cup fresh strawberries, mashed
 1/2  cups sugar
 1     tablespoon cornstarch
 1     tablespoon lemon juice
 2     cups fresh strawberries, cut into quarters
 1     teaspoon grated orange peel

In a saucepan, combine mashed strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Heat to boiling.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in the quartered strawberries and orange peel.

Drizzle over cake and fresh strawberries.

Fresh Whipped Cream
 1  vanilla bean
 1 quart heavy cream
 1 cup powdered sugar
Split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into a bowl. Add the cream and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer.

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