Living Off the Land: Doves from Field to Table
Bob McNally 07.06.15
Doves are the most popular game bird in America, and countless thousands are harvested throughout North America. In addition to being abundant, easy to find, and fun to hunt, the mourning dove also is outstanding table fare.
Although hard to hit with a shotgun, doves are fast to clean and prepare for a great wild dinner.
Here are simple steps to dress or “breast” doves, prepare them for cooking, and grilling to perfection.
To quickly “breast” doves, first cut the wings close to the bird body with a sharp pair of game shears or scissors.
Both wings should be clipped and discarded.
With your thumb, locate the point or lower tip of the bird breast bone. Then gently force your thumb under the breast, piercing the bird skin under the feathers.
Slowly “roll” the breast out of the bird with your thumbs.
Slight pressure under the breast with thumbs, while pushing the features back away from the top of the breast, exposes the meat.
A bit of thumb pushing separates the breast from the bird.
The breast easily is removed from the feathers, and the carcass can be discarded.
Meaty dove breasts are quickly and easily removed from birds.
Place just-cleaned dove breasts in a container with cool, clean water for soaking, which helps remove feathers and blood.
Thoroughly wash and clean doves, then carefully remove each side of the bird meat from the breast bone with a sharp, thin-blade fillet knife.
Small, meaty dove breast fillets are simply removed from breast carcasses, which should be discarded.
Soaking breast fillets for a couple hours in cold water or milk is a good idea, but many cooks prefer marinating dove breasts in any of a number of sauces, such as teriyaki, orange or apple juice, soy, Italian dressing, and others. Refrigerating during marinating is advised.
Lay two pieces of bacon side-by-side on a flat surface. Then make a “sandwich” on the bacon strips with two marinated dove breasts with a slice of pineapple and jalapeno pepper inside the dove breast meat.
Roll the bacon with the dove breasts, pineapple and jalapeno slices inside.
Skewer the rolled-bacon dove breasts to hold them together. Several can be placed on a skewer for easy serving following cooking.
Skewered birds can be placed directly on a pre-heated charcoal grill or contained in a grill cradle or rack (shown here) for easy cooking.
Bacon causes rolled birds to smoke and flame, but dove breasts are well protected from scorching inside the bacon. Grill until bacon has completed flaming, turning occasionally. Cooking time varies, but should last 10 to 15 minutes, depending on grill heat.
Skewers of dove breasts should be served immediately after removal from grill.
Grilled dove breasts with a vegetable, rice, and a dry white wine are superb and are easy and quick to make.